The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"His face was as pitted as the moon." And so begins The Orchardist, the beautiful haunting debut novel by Amanda Coplin. Talmadge lives alone in the orchard his mother brought him and his sister to as young children, he is alone and rather reclusive. During a trip to to sell fruit in a near by town two young girls steal from him but he does not bother to chase them. Later, they turn up in the orchard to learn more about the man who let them get away with theft. The girls arrival in the orchard changes the course of Talmadge's life, and theirs, for better and worse.
Coplin spent eight years writing this book and you feel her dedication and love for these characters in every line of the book. Talmadge, Jane, Della, Angelene, Caroline Midday and Clee are all introverted characters and somehow the author has managed to maintain the relationships and emotion between these charters without a lot of dialogue. The relationship between Talmadge, Della and Angelene is the central story and left me with many mixed emotions. Talmadge is a good man haunted by the disappearance of his sister many years before. In Jane and Della he sees a bit of his sister and strives to save them and keep them in a way he could not do for his sister. Della proves to be difficult, set in her own ways, and always in search of something that Talmadge cannot provide, in her search she hurts him deeply and uses him. Talmadge, blind to Della's abuse, almost loses everything to save her. Angelene, the daughter of Jane, raised by Talmadge with the assistance of Caroline Midday, suffers due to Talmadge's obsession with Della.
These charters are well fleshed out, complicated and real.
The Orchardist does touch on some tough and graphic topics, child prostitution, child birth and suicide, but don't let those topics scare you away, they author does not dwell on them or sensationalize them and the rest of the story overshadows those dark areas.
My only criticism of the work are the lack of quotations around the dialogue, it made it hard to track at times what the conversation was or if it was just inner thoughts. However, this is not a book you read quickly, it is one you savor and linger on every single word, because of this I picked up on characters conversation more quickly.
The end of The Orchardist left me fighting tears, it is a beautiful and fitting ending.
I highly recommend The Orchardist - this is a novel that will stick with me for a long time.
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