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The Orange Blossom Special Hardcover – June 3, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (June 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124493
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,865,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title of Carter's sympathetic if somewhat contrived debut novel (she's the author of a memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On) refers to the first New York–to–Miami passenger train, a not-so-subtle metaphor for the American dream and the forward march of history, as the story hurtles from the late '50s and into the '80s. In 1958, comely widow Tessie Lockhart and her seventh-grade daughter, Dinah, uproot from Carbondale, Ill., to Gainesville, Fla., driven by a very American faith in the healing power of a fresh start. There, their lives intertwine with those of Gainesville's powerful Landy family, as Dinah's popular classmate Crystal Landy and her solemn older brother, Charlie, befriend Dinah. When the Landys' house burns down, killing their father, Dinah and Crystal form a special bond, speaking "the same language of loss" across the divide of class and social status. Even Tessie and supercilious matriarch Victoria Landy cement a rocky friendship, and over the years, a tumultuous love blossoms between Dinah and Charlie. Carter's plot skips lightly over the passing decades, which are marked by periodic eruptions of changing culture. Each incident of racial strife or Vietnam tragedy feels forced and representative, though, and as the novel barrels into the late–20th century like the titular locomotive, Carter sacrifices character development in her reach for historical import.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Justly praised for her candid, humorous memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On (2002), magazine writer and editor Carter tries her hand at fiction in this affecting tale of widow Tess and her daughter, Dinah, who relocate to Gainesville, Florida, in 1958. They are soon virtually adopted by the wealthy Landy family, which includes pampered mom Victoria; teenager Charlie, who has the gift of second sight; and overweight, sassy seventh-grader Crystal. As the Landys help to ease their transition into southern small-town culture, Tess lands a good job and finds love with a jai alai mogul, and Dinah finds her soul mate in Charlie. Over the next two decades, they must all confront the changes brought on by Victoria's new business venture and Crystal's distress over Dinah and Charlie's relationship. The plot of this first novel seems overly thin at times, and the transitions between decades are sometimes too abrupt; yet there's no denying that the characters, drawn with fresh, often idiosyncratic detail, are instantly engaging. A light, funny read that also offers a distinctive sense of place. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jean Seligmann on June 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I reached page 250 of "The Orange Blossom Special," I started feeling depressed, not because the story is sad, but because I knew that I would soon have to bid farewell to Betsy Carter's cast of uncommonly endearing characters. By the end of the book, they seem like your old friends, and I'm still thinking about them several weeks after forcing myself to turn the last page. But giving these folks original, leap-off-the-page personalities is not Carter's only skill. In her debut novel, she takes us to a mid-twentieth-century Florida that is so far from the sophisticated, fast-moving Gotham of her earlier offspring, the much-mourned monthly New York Woman, that you actually feel sweaty and unhurried as you're reading it. But Carter the fiction writer still has the same crackling wit, fabulous eye for detail and enormous compassion for the human condition that made her magazine such a winner and her memoir, "Nothing To Fall Back On," so appealing. The 1950s and 60s are vividly evoked here through the language and attitudes of the characters, historical and cultural events and references (Vietnam, Anita Bryant, even Davey Crockett) and all those great songs....In fact, the only way the book could be improved would be to have it include a soundtrack CD!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Betsy Carter, author of The Orange Blossom Special, gives readers an intimate look at a different time in our country. The time is the late 1950s where we find an uncomplicated sort of innocence, to the 1960s that are filled with turbulence and unrest.

The Orange Blossom Special is the first passenger train to connect New York to Miami. Tess, a widow of two years, and her daughter Dinah, who has lost her lust for life, decide to leave Carbondale to create a new life for themselves in Gainesville, Florida; the destination of the Orange Blossom Special.

People often say that you can't choose your family but you can choose your friends. In The Orange Blossom Special, Tess and Dinah create family by choosing them from various people they meet along the way. And through various trials and tribulations they ultimately realize that they have found their place - and it's called home.

Betsy Carter has a distinct voice and writes with humor and compassion. She is only going to improve with each book. I love the way she views the world, and I enjoy the multi-layered, rich characters in her book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Gingold on July 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Betsy Carter's The Orange Blossom Special is so well-stocked with characters, events and tangible energy that it's hard to believe it's less than 300 pages long. Set in Florida, mostly during the 50's and 60's, the book follows the intertwined lives of a couple of teenage girls, their friends and families. Carter gets all the details right. Her senses of place and time are pitch perfect, from her description of the toniest beauty parlor in town to her evocation of a sultry Florida night. She knows what teenagers of the day wore and worried about, and she knows what their mothers cooked and worried about. Humane, funny and beautifully written, this book is so full of life it breathes. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tara Walker Gross VINE VOICE on April 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although not the deepest book I have ever read, this is still a very good one. The only qualm I had about it was that I feel some of the characters (in fact, most of them) were either undeveloped or under-developed...the author skipped years in the lives of these people, years that I would have wanted to read about. Still, it is at times funny, at times sad, but always interesting, and you certainly walk away truly caring about the characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Kaplan on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"The Orange Blossom Special" is an unaffected and endearing story that spans several decades from the 50s to the late 80s. It concerns a quirky but sweet recent widow, Tess, who is sinking into the bottle after the death of her beloved husband Jerry when she realizes that to save her life and the life of her teenaged daughter Dinah, she has to make a big change in their circumstances.

So on a whim, she moves them to Gainesville, Florida, and there starts a whole new existence. Except for the fact that she communes with her dead husband through notes in a cigar box, and that Dinah communes with him through "finger signals" from a disabled boy in class, they are both perfectly normal. Sort of.

Enter the spoiled ex-cheerleader wife and mother Victoria, whose entire life revolves around her hair, fingernails and decorating her ornate Florida mansion, and her long-suffering family, which includes a daughter who becomes unlikely friends with Dinah, and the book picks up. We follow our characters through the innocence of the 50s, the Civil Rights disturbances (in which Victoria's housekeeper Ella, and Victoria's son Charley become heroically entertwined), the Vietnam War, the excess of the 80s and beyond...and they stay, if not changed by life's circumstances, at least for all intents and purposes the sweet people they are.

A charming book; highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Larrabee on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tessie and Dinah Lockhart move to Gainesville, Florida in 1958 to get away from the sad memories in Carbondale, Illinois. Jerry Lockhart, Tessie's husband, and Dinah's father died almost three years ago. Dinah joins a new school mid-year. She is able to become best friends with Crystal Landy. The story takes through the years as the Landys and the Lockharts grow up. Charlie Landy, Crystal's brother has many special gifts to give to the community. He falls in love with Dinah. Crystal and Dinah grow apart over the years but family and love bring them back together. Her mother Victoria is an unpredictable character, and tends to cause a great amount of anxiety to those around her. Tessie is able to fall in love even though Jerry is still a part of her life. This novel provides us with a unique glimpse of life in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.
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