- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers (February 12, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595541519
- ISBN-13: 978-1595541512
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,958,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Orchid House Paperback – February 12, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Julia Morrison is still grieving the death of her grandfather when she finds out she's the family representative for Hacienda Esperanza, the estate he left behind in the Philippines when he went into exile. On arriving there from San Francisco, Julia finds a mansion replete with kin who tell her legends of her Spanish ancestors, while her grandfather's cryptic notes lead her to seek out an orchid, discovered by an aunt several generations ago, that purportedly can work miracles. Over the course of settling her grandfather's affairs, Julia finds out she can't own the Hacienda outright, but the more she sees of the country and of her handsome young lawyer, the more she contemplates staying on. Julia's naïveté and attachment to the estate at times prove overly sweet, but her wide-eyed perspective is tempered by depictions of the life of those outside the gates: Emman, a boy growing up outside the mansion who takes it upon himself to protect the American woman, and Manalo, a Communist freedom fighter hoping to place control of the mansion in Filipino hands. The latest swirling romance from Martinusen (Eventide) draws tension from the setting, which includes a smoky threat from a nearby volcano, and from a nicely turned plot. (Feb.)
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About the Author
Cindy Martinusen Coloma is the best-selling author of several novels including The Salt Garden, Beautiful, and Orchid House.
Top customer reviews
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Plot-wise, the transformation of the protagonist as she overcomes hurdles is heartwarming, as is the relationships and the connections that develop between the characters. The only criticism is that I felt that the book attempts to but doesn't really succeed in building suspense. The allusions to danger throughout seemed disconnected from the heroine's reality, and the big climax I was expecting didn't really carry much punch. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it reading it.
Julia Bentley is still stinging from a broken relationship with a man with whom she expected to spend the rest of her life. When Julia's grandfather dies, she is charged with traveling 6,000 miles to the Philippines to oversee his funeral arrangements. She also must decide what to do with Hacienda Esperanza, "the plantation of hope," her family's lovely but dilapidated estate.
New to the exotic islands, Julia feels as if she had come home. As "Captain Morrison's granddaughter" she is loved and made much over by the women of the hacienda and relatives she has never known. Life in San Francisco recedes, and a new chapter in Julia's life begins. "The thought of her life in the past few years was like a painting, drained of nearly all color."
The Philippines are even more appealing for Julia due to a handsome --- and single --- lawyer, Markus Santos, and it's love at first sight. Laudably, Martinusen adeptly avoids the "I hate him/I love him" course of events that turn so many plots into a cliché.
What is most appealing about ORCHID HOUSE is its beautiful settings --- the lush island, the mayhem of Manila, the details about the Filipino people and their traditions (including an evenhanded portrayal of a violent cockfight witnessed by Julia). Readers' mouths will water at the descriptions of halo-halo (Filipino ice cream with fruit, beans and jam) and the spices of Filipino cuisine. The author has done her homework about the physical details, and she uses them liberally in her storyline. Occasionally, she slips into too much description --- lists of spices, for example --- instead of integrating them naturally into the story, which can slow the pacing.
Martinusen uses the phrase "a land to redeem" about the Philippines and unpacks that by showing the political unrest bubbling just under the surface. It takes a while to get into Manalo's story, and a little more setup would have cleared away some of the confusion I felt about him at the beginning. She portrays well his feelings of irresolution between his country and its demands and his family, and his gradual weariness with his work toward a Communist state. Martinusen does a nice job showing his motivations for good, even as he is drawn into so much that is so bad: "He hoped that by his necessary sins, his sons might one day walk a path of clear integrity without constant questioning and regret."
An interesting side theme is the contrast between the "normal" lives of children growing up in the hacienda and the fractured lives of the children groomed to become soldiers in a guerilla village of Barangay Mahinahon. When Julia asks if the two groups of children play together, Markus replies: "The children are very separate, very different. Their minds are molded to see life in completely different ways."
Although many parts of the novel are intriguing, the romance and the plot might have benefited from more tension. Neither quite catches fire (despite the political unrest and threats of a volcano ready to erupt at any moment). The reader will also have to suspend disbelief when Julia mimics a family yarn passed down for generations and discovers a missing orchid while out for an impromptu swim. It's a stretch.
Martinusen's most engaging moments come when she creates the stories Julia is told by the women of the hacienda. "This is a land of myth and folklore," Markus tells her, and the legends and family tales she includes provides some of the best moments in the book.
Readers familiar with her earlier writing will recognize several of the elements present in Martinusen's Winter Passing trilogy --- a protagonist trying to connect with the past, a storyline rich in detail, and interesting insights about what motivates good people to do bad things. But what is most intriguing about this story is Julia's discovery of herself through a past she never knew she had. "We don't always realize what is ours until finally we find it," says Markus. After completing Martinusen's novel, readers may find themselves more eager to explore their own heritages, even if their past lacks such a colorful backdrop.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby
Emman of the village Barangay Mahinahon, is a boy with a man's responsibilities. Trained as a fighter, Emman can't wait for the American granddaughter of the famous Captain Morrison to return and fulfil his role as her protector and defender.
Not everyone is happy with Julia's return and the hope it engenders in the people of Hacienda Esperanza, her ancestral home. Manolo, the infamous leader of the Red Bolo communist guerrillas, knows he must deter Julia from staying, any way he can.
Cindy Martinusen reveals the exotic beauty, generous hospitality and heartbreaking history of the Philippines in this stunning tale that enthralled me from start to finish.
Orchid House weaves the lessons of the past into hope for the future as Julia learns the history of her grandparents and discovers the mystique of the ageing home that is her inheritance and a haven for her Filipino family and community. Cindy skilfully tells the story through the eyes of Julia, Emman and Manolo, providing astonishing depth to each event and creating great compassion in the reader for each character and their circumstances. Through the pages of Orchid House I was transported to a land of despair and hope, magnificent physical beauty and volcanic destruction, a generous compassionate people and the home of child warriors. Cindy writes with an elegance and insight that captivated my heart and soul as surely as each of her characters did. If you read the acknowledgements, you know there is a bit of the author's own story in this book which only adds to its appeal! Do not miss this gem of a tale about love, sacrifice and above all.... hope.