The Orchardist is such a rare and beautiful specimen of a book, I barely know where to begin in my praise of it. Should I write about the sweeping breadth of the Washington landscape that becomes as important as another character?
Should I tell you of the achingly beautiful prose that describes every event in the most perfectly chosen details?
Should I warn you that there are moments so painful your breath will catch, so haunting your eyes will not close in sleep?
Perhaps I should write of Talmadge, the quiet and introspective Orchardist for whom the book is named, and the way he cares with such deep intensity for his land, his product, and the people he loves. The way he sees so clearly into the soul of everything and everyone - except perhaps himself.
Or maybe you'd like to know about Jane and Della, two frightened young girls, heavy with child, who appear at the outskirts of Talmdige's orchard, fleeing an unspeakable evil, and work their way bit by bit into his heart, stirring within him every ounce of protectiveness he can muster.
And I must not forget Angelene, Jane's daughter, whom Talmadge raises and instills with a feminine version of his unique quiet intelligence and intensity.
The Orchardist is stunning, almost Biblical in the epic span of its story about determination and loneliness and loyalty and hope. It takes the reader into a far-away place - the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century - a time when a man's land governed his life and his choices, when people worked hard from dawn until dark because their very living depended on it. A time when distractions were less, and simple pleasures enjoyed more.
But still there was darkness...there was evil and loss and destruction. Talmadge is no stranger to it, even before Jane and Della with their heavy baby-laden bellies, arrive. His father has died in a mining accident, his mother has died a few years later, leaving he and his younger sister- neither of them barely more than children -alone to run the orchard. And then his sister Elspeth disappeared one day, goes out to gather herbs and never returns. Talmadge is nearly crushed by this loss. Forty years later, it fuels his obsession with Jane and Della, and his desire to protect them from the evil they have fled.
Readers and writers alike will savor The Orchardist, for its story, its characters, its maturity of style and prose. A novel eight years in the writing, begun when its young author was only 24 years old, The Orchardist is an amazing tour de force and should become part of the canon of modern American literature.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the privilege of reading this book.