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The Orchardist: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 21, 2012
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“Amanda Coplin’s somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. You can only be thrilled by a 31-year-old writer with this depth of understanding…the final epiphany equals in stark grandeur similar scenes in Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS and Pat Barker’s ANOTHER WORLD...” (Washington Post)
“[A] beautiful, powerful novel…THE ORCHARDIST has the sweep and scope of a big historical novel…yet Coplin is exquisitely attuned to small, interior revolutions as well. Its language as rooted and plain as the apple trees Talmadge nurtures, this is a gorgeous first book.” (Boston Globe)
“There are echoes of John Steinbeck in this beautiful and haunting debut novel set in early-20th -century Washington State...Coplin depicts the frontier landscape and the plainspoken characters who inhabit it with dazzling clarity.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“A stunning debut…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.” (The Oregonian (Portland))
“Coplin’s prose is fresh and compelling…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)
“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.” (Seattle Times)
“Amanda Coplin has depicted her northwestern landscape with such fidelity that readers will know its every sight, smell, and sound. Within this world are compelling characters and their equally compelling stories. THE ORCHARDIST is an outstanding debut.” (Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of SERENA and THE COVE)
“To read this mysterious, compelling, elemental novel is to immerse yourself in the world of an old folk song, in which the passions and sorrows of plain people rage unseen and then blossom as madly (and quietly) as apricot trees. In THE ORCHARDIST, Amanda Coplin shows us what’s unknowable.” (Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award and NBCC Award Finalist for Fiction, AMERICAN SALVAGE)
“THE ORCHARDIST is a stunning accomplishment, hypnotic in its storytelling power, by turns lyrical and gritty, and filled with marvels. Coplin displays a dazzling sense of craftsmanship, and a talent for creating characters vivid and true.” (Jane Ciabattari, NPR)
“A breathtaking work from a genuinely accomplished writer…Coplin’s lyrical style and forceful storytelling provide many unexpected twists before the poignant conclusion.” (Library Journal)
“Eloquent, moving…an immensely affecting first novel...Coplin refuses to sentimentalize. Instead, she demonstrates that courage and compassion can transform unremarkable lives and redeem damaged souls.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Coplin’s mesmerizing debut stands out with its depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape that will settle deeply into readers’ bones.” (Booklist)
“Beautifully written, so alive to the magnificence of the land and the intricate mysteries of human nature, that it inspires awe rather than depression.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Nearly everybody in the book compels your admiration, either for their courage or for the heavy work they do, all the time and without complaint, even when wicked men are hunting them. Transfixing. I love this book straight through.” (Salvatore Scibona, author of THE END, National Book Award Finalist)
“When you pick up THE ORCHARDIST, you will be lured at first by the lushness of the language. But soon enough the characters will take hold of you and you’ll read on hungrily, as if under a spell. It’s hard to believe that this is Amanda Coplin’s first novel.” (Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED)
“Patiently beautiful, THE ORCHARDIST builds its characters and its situations so carefully that the story becomes as real to us as this morning’s news. I am in awe of Amanda Coplin’s book, which does not feel like a first novel but a life’s work.” (Charles Baxter, author THE FEAST OF LOVE, National Book Award Finalist)
“A rare find—this debut novel that reads with masterful authority. Stately and passionate—a stunning powerhouse. THE ORCHARDIST, like Marilynne Robinson’s GILEAD, drills into history, portraying an apparently modest American way of life but finally presenting us with a great American elegy.” (Patricia Hampl, author of A ROMANTIC EDUCATION)
“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.” (Denver Post)
“Coplin’s grave, graceful prose gives dignity to lives that otherwise might be too sad to contemplate. Her story, which turns in unpredictable ways, is both troubling and touching.” (Columbus Dispatch)
“A superb work from an abundantly gifted young writer” (Dallas Morning News)
“In the end, THE ORCHARDIST shares much in common with the fruits its protagonist nurtures: The succulent flesh of the novel will intoxicate readers early on, but delving deeper reveals a hard core that is vital, bittersweet and ultimately timeless.” (BookPage, Top Fiction Pick)
“This is an extraordinarily ambitious and authoritative debut.” (Holloway McCandless, Shelf Awareness)
“Coplin’s consistent and finely-tuned rendering of a very different sensibility may help readers to comprehend a time when expedience did not rule…This patience is revealed in a narrative that is at once lyrical and unsentimental. This is the most extraordinary fruit of a noteworthy debut novel.” (Bellingham Herald)
“The exquisitely described landscapes in this tale astonish, but so do the emotional lives of its characters…a wise and great American novel.” (The Oprah Blog, Book of the Week September 17th)
“...the best first novel of 2012...the book brings to mind just how much the effect of reading about the land, the setting, with its lyric pulse, plays a role in the success of a forward moving narrative.” (Chicago Tribune)
Top Customer Reviews
There is a relentless stoicism about this novel of intense imagery and descriptive exactitude. With luminous, clear prose all the sensations of the world of the orchardist are evoked, such as the smell of apricot blossoms or rich garden soil; the taste of green apples or wild honeysuckle; the sounds of the wind or bird song in the fruit trees; the shimmering play of light in the plum orchard at sunset or moon shine and countless stars on a clear night; the coldness of the creek water on a hot, humid afternoon or the warmth under a quilt in the bitter cold; the satisfaction of solitude or the emptiness of loss.
But who is the orchardist? I would say there are really two: most definitely the makeshift patriarch of his foster family, William Talmadge, but also one of his adoptees, the girl child who by his own hands was delivered into this world in his very orchard, the beautiful Angelene Michaelson.
Their story takes place in the Pacific Northwest, primarily on a piece of remote and wild land near Wenatchee, Washington, owned and homesteaded by the solitary Talmadge. The story truly speaks of one being wedded to the land as well as of the vicissitudes of the frontier life that mold and shape character.Read more ›
Having said this much, I find myself truly at a loss as to how to continue. One of the things which I found most difficult was to genuinely relate to the characters and situations, which are extremely far from my own experience. Nevertheless, I found myself completely wrapped up in the concerns of their lives, and caring very deeply about how things worked out.
Another thing that fascinated me was the extremely unusual format - for instance, the complete lack of quotation marks, and the juxtaposition of brief partial page and much longer sections. The small vignettes were brilliantly crafted, and moved the narrative along in an amazing way. Despite the book's length and the fact that the dramatic episodes were interspersed with long quiet stretches of everyday life, I can honestly say that while I sometimes tend to lose interest in novels that are not cliff-hangers in every chapter, it did not happen here.
For the romance novel addict demanding explicit sex scenes, the person who wants vivid descriptions of cruelty and gore, or one who demands an improbable ending where the good guys "win" and the bad guys get a gruesome comeuppance, this book is not recommended. However, if you are looking for a sensitive and vividly presented insight into a time and place that seems to be fully realized, and people who are real even though you may never have met anyone like them, this is a truly fascinating excursion into an intriguing world.
At times, the novel evokes the history of the region: the coming of the railroad, the spread of large-scale orchards and distribution centers, the timber camps, the diminishing presence of the native tribes. (Oddly, there is almost no mention of Washington's tumultuous labor history in this period, although Della works in both a cannery and a timber camp.) However, the intent of the novel does not seem to be toward true historical fiction; instead, there is just enough period detail to sketch in the era.
The larger intent of The Orchardist is a poetic impulse; it seeks to convey the natural beauties of the region, as well as the powerful impression of place on human character and conduct. In this, Coplin is not entirely successful. This is a long novel (425 pages) and there are many many paragraphs devoted to descriptions of the landscape. These reverential passages, as well as the use of lengthy interior monologues, slow the novel down after a time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting, but the ending was not satisfying. It left a lot of unanswered questions. It tells the story of a man who had lost his family so he assembled a "family" of... Read morePublished 4 days ago by David E. Salmon
Warm and raw, full of sensitivity and yearning. I will read this again and again to capture to true meaning of unconditional love.Published 7 days ago by Kendra Shigematsu
I rarely assign 5 stars to a book, but this one hooked me and never let go. Character development was this book's strength. Read morePublished 14 days ago by P. Bell
A very well-written book - a good book group selection as it generates good discussion. Recommend it!Published 20 days ago by Nina H. Klein
I like historical fiction and this started out to be a very good read but the ending was disappointing. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Susan J. Novak