- About the Book
At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past. Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.
THE ORCHARDIST is an engrossing page-turner --- the kind of book that makes it nearly impossible to quit reading in order to attend to the reader's actual real life. The setting and characters (actually, every element) are pitch-perfect; it's nearly impossible to believe these three-dimensional characters and the you-are-there locale descriptions are the product of an author's imagination. In addition, Amanda Coplin's use of words is so inspired it is hard to resist rereading sentences repeatedly, which is a problem when you also must keep turning pages in order to discover the conclusion. I predict this title will find its way to many "Best of" lists. In the meantime, don't miss it.
As the novel unfolds, the characters become as familiar as a favorite pair of shoes, though hardly as comfortable. Coplin has a fine hand with detail; her narrative lacks detour or waste. Her characters are one with their finely rendered surroundings, be they orchard, town or the world beyond Peshastin. Her pacing is flawless, with just enough exposition at the novel's start to allow that which follows to hang as a whole cloth. This is a novel to burrow into, to be submerged in a world that is both lovely and hard. It's a world that becomes so real that one only leaves by being forced out by the closing of the covers that enfold it.
"The Orchardist" is engaging and enthralling. The reader wants to turn each page quickly as the story develops, and wants at the same time to dwell on the lyrical moments of sunshine, soil and love.
Coplin's prose is fresh and compelling, bringing Talmadge and the other characters to vivid life.... While the ending of this striking debut may not make every reader happy, it is, undoubtedly, the right one for both the book and for Talmadge, an unlikely hero who -- like the book -- is true to life and sweetly honest from beginning to end.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Amanda Coplin's somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. Steeped in the timeless rhythms of agriculture, her story unfolds in spare language as her characters thrash against an existential sense of meaninglessness.... Coplin's saga of a makeshift family unmoored by loss should be depressing, but, instead, her achingly beautiful prose inspires exhilaration. You can only be thrilled by a 31-year-old writer with this depth of understanding.
"The Orchardist," a stunning debut by Amanda Coplin, transcends each and every one of these hackneyed portrayals of Western life. Her novel is set on a frontier filled with beauty and loneliness and violence.... "The Orchardist" is a poetic book, but its strength doesn't lie solely in its language. Coplin's understanding of abuse and the lasting effects of fear and loss on the individual psyche are deeply resonant.... As a debut novel, "The Orchardist" stands on par with Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain." Even in its quietest moments it hums with life.