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The Orchardist    by Amanda Coplin order for
by Amanda Coplin
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A solitary man, whose sister went missing in his youth, befriends two pregnant and skittish women who appear on his farm. That act of humanity has consequences that play out in violence and love over the next twenty years.

As interesting as the plot and its characters are, it is the orchard that illumines the story. Apples, apricots and plums and how they grow is only the start of it. To a person who works the land and loves it, there and signs and wonders all around to be observed and learned from. Despite the heavy year-round effort to keep everything in shape, something soul-satisfying comes from '... hours spent alone in the quiet, in the resplendent light of the outer orchard ... the odors of the earth ... and the freedom that comes from knowing you are the only human for miles ... the freedom to sing, to talk to yourself, to laugh, and ... if need be ... to cry.'

Even though it is the men who must do the rough work, none of it would ever be done without the women. In this untamed country, two are contrasted, one who has all the benefits of loving care, education and support as she grows up, and the other who has none. How their lives unfold and intersect forms the story's thrust, but it is the characters' connection to the land that rounds it all out.

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