Thursday, August 23, 2012

book review: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The basics: The Orchardist, a debut novel from Amanda Coplin, is the story of Talmadge. When he was a boy, his father died. His mother took him and his sister west to an orchard in the Pacific Northwest. Tragedy continues to befall this family, as Talmadge's mother dies when he is 15. His sister disappears two years later, yet Talmadge lives on growing and selling fruit. When two young, pregnant girls, begin stealing from him, he tries to take them under his wing and provide food and shelter for him.

My thoughts: I confess: the description of this novel did not entice me to read it, but as it kept appearing on "Best of the Fall" lists, I took a chance, and I'm so glad I did. I think the word haunting may be approaching overuse for describing novels, but in the case of The Orchardist, it's apt. Coplin's writing is as haunting as her characters:
"She'd had the look of departure about a year before she disappeared. A watchfulness. Stirrings of restlessness in a creature otherwise inimitably patient."
The pace of the novel is also somewhat haunting. The novel is told in vignettes of varying length and time moves slowly sometimes and quickly at others. The story always flows beautifully, and I found myself reading it slowly to savor its stillness and depth.

Favorite passage: "And that was the point of children, thought Caroline Middey: to bind us to the earth and to the present, to distract us from death. A distraction dressed as a blessing: but dressed so well, as so truly that it became a blessing. Or maybe it was the other way around: a blessing first, before a distraction. Caroline Middey scrutinized this point; did not know if the distinction was important. (But all distinctions are important.)

The verdict: The Orchardist is simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming. It's a beautifully rendered debut novel, and Coplin's prose is as haunting as Talmadge himself.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 (I'm still seriously debating this rating: it might end up at 5 stars)
Length: 448 pages
Publication date: August 21, 2012
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Orchardist from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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15 comments:

  1. I'm interested to see if you move this up to a 5 at some point - it looks like it was a great read!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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    1. Thanks, Heather (and your comment made me realize I neglected to thank TLC in the post--I've corrected my omission. Thanks!)

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  2. Gah, I'm soooooooooooooo sad I didn't get on the tour for this one -- the description didn't truly catch me -- you've sold me on getting this one now!

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    1. Audra, I jumped on the tour at the last minute after hearing so much praise and am so glad I did. The description didn't do much for me, but sometimes I love that about a book: when the writing and characters grab you so unexpectedly.

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  3. I agree. The write-up does little to pull me in. I'd read it based on what you said here though.

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    1. Thank, Ti. I think you might like this one too, despite our apparent shared lack of interest in orchards.

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  4. I added this to my TBR list as soon as I heard about it...I think it sounds marvelous! Having read your review, I'm now even more excited about it.

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    1. Her Royal Orangeness, I hope you enjoy it! And I have a feeling we might see this on a future Orange Prize longlist!

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  5. Oh my, you've made this one sound so enticing and interesting! I don't mind a sad story when it turns itself around and becomes something beautiful, so I am really interested in reading this. Excellent and very moving review today!

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    1. Thanks, Zibilee! I was sort of dreading the "sad part" of this story, but it happened so early and felt totally organic. I really loved this one.

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  6. You make me want to open my Kindle right now and begin. It will definitely be a book I read next month.

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    1. Diane, I'll look forward to your thoughts. I think you'll really like this one too.

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  7. It definitely sounds heartbreaking. I'll admit that I've seen this title everywhere and was a little wary. While the content may be heavy, it seems like the quality of the writing is worth it. I may wait a bit to pick it up but I'll keep your review in mind.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!