by Amanda Chopin
Books can be read and then be easily forgotten. This is not the case with The Orchardist by Amanda Chopin.
Initially, we are introduced to William Talmadge. He lives a quiet life in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains where he has lived since age nine. There are four constants in his life. The first is Caroline Middey, herbalist and midwife, to whom Talmadge entrusts some of his emotions. The second is Clee, a Nez Perce and horse wrangler, whose tribe stops by the valley each year to refresh their horses being taken to auction and to help harvest the fruit trees. The third constant is his mother and sister, Elsbeth. The fourth constant is the land and the fruit orchard which are the steadfast center of Talmadge’s being.
At age forty, his peaceful life is shattered by the appearance of two young girls at the edge of his orchard. They are filthy, hungry, and pregnant. His decision to help the girls, Jane and Della, triggers unexpected events and unintended consequences. It also brings ghosts from the past that torment Talmadge and other characters in unforeseen ways.
Amanda Chopin is a writer who scours the English language finding those words with a toughness when needed and a tenderness when appropriate. She explores complex relationships which might make the reader ponder why people forgive some but seek revenge on others.
The book is a rewarding read. It can be intense at time, but it is well worth the effort.