The Orchardist: A Novel

by Amanda Coplin

Hardcover, 2012

Call number




Harper (2012), Edition: First Edition, 448 pages


At the turn of the 20th century in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a gentle solitary orchardist, Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots. Then two feral, pregnant girls and armed gunmen set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookchickdi
Sometimes you read a debut novel and you just know that you will hear great things from this author time and again. After reading Amanda Coplin's amazing The Orchardist, I know that she is in that category.

Her character of Talmadge is one I can't get out of my head. Talmadge lives on his family's
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orchard in the western United States at the turn of the 20th century, all alone since his teenage sister walked into the woods one day and never came back. Did she run away? Was she kidnapped or killed? The answer to that question burns a hole in Talmadge's heart.

He is a taciturn man, and he has little contact with other people, save for Caroline, who tends to the townspeople's medical care, and the native American men who bring their horses through each spring and camp nearby.

One day Talmadge finds two nearly feral teen girls hiding in the orchard. He tries to make contact with him, but they are afraid. He leaves them food and blankets, and soon he breaks through to talk with Jane and Della. They are both pregnant and scared to death. He convinces them to come live inside his home, and has Caroline check them out medically.

Slowly, Talmadge discovers where the girls came from and he goes there in an misguided attempt to find out what happened to them and why they left. The girls fled a bad man and a worse situation, and Talmadge's discovery of this leads to a tragic event.

In his mind Talmadge hopes that by taking care of these girls, he can make up for not taking good enough care of his sister. Her disappearance changed his life forever, and this is a chance to redeem himself and have a family of his own.

The book alternates telling Talmadge's and Della's stories, but to say more would be to reveal parts of the story that are best left discovered by the reader herself, and this is a beautifully written story you will want to discover for yourself.

Talmadge is one of the most indelible characters in recent memory. His story is one of loyalty, redemption and the importance of family, whether it's the one you are born into or one you create. Congratulations to Amanda Coplin who won the Barnes & Noble Discover Writers Award for Fiction last night in New York City. The story is here.

The Orchardist made many Best of 2012 list, including my Most Compelling Books of 2012, and if you haven't read it yet, it's now in paperback.
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LibraryThing member kcapelli
This book was wonderful! Once I started reading it, I was completely drawn into the world of William Talmadge, who finds safety and peace in his solitary existence. He tends his orchard alone, with vey little social interaction. He is a simple and very honorable man, and when he finds two pregnant
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girls hiding in his orchard, he takes them in. Shelter is a big theme in this book , for Talmadge as well as the girls, Jane and Della. The author takes you slowly through her story, especially the beginning. Descriptions of the orchard, of Talmadge’s solitude, and the unraveling of the ordeal the two girls lived through, were mesmerizing. The story grows in intensity and consequences as it progresses. The beginning of the story was especially compelling and I loved the author’s poetic descriptions of the wild, early 20th century Pacific Northwest, as well as the historic details of the period. I would definitely recommend this book- let me know how you liked it!
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LibraryThing member LyndaInOregon
Extremely slow story of a bachelor orchardist in turn-of-the-century Washington state whose life is changed when two young girls, running away from a child-brothel, take refuge on his land. The writing is nicely crafted, and the local-to-me location gives it a certain amount of interest, but …
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nothing really happens.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was a book that captured me totally during the first half of the book. After that I struggled with the slowness of the story and the lack of direction. Like an orchard, the story grew slowly but unfortunately, I never felt rewarded with a juicy ending. The story just
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seem to drift to a close.

It is a beautifully written story of early 20th century eastern Washington state. William Talmadge and his sister tend an orchard after the death of their mother. One day his sister goes into the forest to gather herbs and never returns. All they ever find of her is her apron and her bonnet. Talmadge is devastated by her disappearance and spends the rest of his life haunted by this event. When, as an older man, two young, pregnant girls running away from a life of abuse, arrive in the orchard, he is more than ready to invite them into his life wanting only to protect and care for them.

The beginning of this book was a complete page turner, being both reflective and spellbinding. Her description of sunlit days amongst the apricots and apples evoked my senses and totally captured my imagination. This book that started as such an emotional and touching story unfortunately wasn‘t able to hold onto the beautiful rhythm. The second half of the book was both underwhelming and seemed to drag on indefinitely. I wish the author had shortened the book by about 150 pages which would have made for a tighter, more stunning story.

This was a debut novel and I am glad that I read The Orchardist. Amanada Coplin writes with style and flair. Her ability to combine both lyrical and sparse prose shows a talent that leaves me wanting to see what she does next.
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LibraryThing member Gingersnap000
The Orchardist can touch your soul as it did for me. It may be a slow read for some but slow to me was soaking in all the descriptions of the landscape and main characters. This tale would make an excellent Hallmark Hall of Fame movies; strong character who make a family without blood relations.
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The author, Amanda Coplin, took eight years to write this endearing tale. Take your time reading the novel as the chracters are so well developed.
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LibraryThing member writestuff
And above and below all this was the sound of the child’s cries, hovering in the trees, seeming to come from all directions at once. Was it a comfort? It was all new – the company, the sounds – but also he felt as if it had been going on for a long time. He was, he thought – and was shocked
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at this discovery – happy. - from The Orchardist, page 74 -

William Talmadge is an orchardist in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century. He is no longer a young man and he carries a continuing grief for his sister who disappeared one day into the woods and was never seen again when they were both still children. It is this history which perhaps allows Talmadge to tolerate two young girls who appear on his property, both pregnant and traumatized. Talmadge is drawn to the girls, wants to care for them and provides them with food and a place to stay…but it is an uneasy alliance. Talmadge’s long time friend, Caroline Middey who is the local midwife, cautions Talmadge about his involvement with these two girls, named Jane and Della. One day men arrive at the orchard with guns, and what unfolds is both tragic and unexpected, and has long reaching consequences for all the characters, including Jane’s newly born daughter, Angelene.

She was like an egg encased in iron. She was the dream of the place that bore her, and she did not even know it. – from The Orchardist, page 418 -

The Orchardist unfolds over decades and centers primarily on Talmadge, a gentle loner who longs for a family, and three women: Caroline Middey, practical and motherly; Angelene, who represents hope for the future; and Della, a lost young woman who is angry and searching for herself. Of them all, it is Della who is the most difficult to understand and the character who stands on the outside. Filled with despair and grief, Della leaves the orchard and the man who wants to raise her as his own – she goes out into a world filled with uncertainty and violence and struggles to find comfort where there is none.

And then other things distracted her. Drinking, but that was not all of it. Riding horses wasn’t enough anymore, to access that despair that she needed so badly. - from The Orchardist, page 147 -

If Della is less than sympathetic at times, it is Talmadge who tugs at the heartstrings of the reader. He wishes to right the wrong in his life (the unexplained disappearance of his sister) by creating a family with Angelene, Caroline and Della – but fate and a sense of inevitability stand in his way.

She fought against the same force against which he fought. Fate, inevitability, luck. God. He would fly in the face of this force now, for her. If she could be freed from it, he would free her. He would make it all up to her, now. - from The Orchardist, page 342 -

The Orchardist examines grief, loneliness, the healing force of nature and solitude, redemption, and the search for one’s identity. The novel’s sense of place and time is strong, with beautiful and lyrical descriptions of the Pacific Northwest and more specifically, the isolated life an an orchardist in the early part of the twentieth century.

Strengths: descriptions of nature, characterization – very literary. Captures time and place well.

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LibraryThing member FerneMysteryReader
I finished The Orchardist today. I gave it to my Mother as a birthday gift in April after reading a promo, then we loaned it to a neighbor who loves excellent writing and then this holiday weekend it was my turn to be captivated by your writing. As a voracious reader and a retired librarian, I have
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read more titles than I can count. It is difficult to perceive this special book as a "first" novel. As my Mother so precisely described said, "It draws you in". Thank you for your story. Thank you for your writing that mesmerizes - it is lyrical, it is intelligent, it is thoughtful - and without doubt generates emotion through your rich character development and exquisite design of describing the atmosphere and setting in which the characters live and evolve. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us. I hope you never stop writing. ♥
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LibraryThing member salgalruns
I read this for my book club, and after the first 20 pages, I was hooked! I had fallen in love with the characters and the setting, and couldn't wait to get back to reading. This was particularly interesting, because when we met for book club, all of us had read to the halfway point (oddly enough)
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and all felt the same way!

I then rushed home to finish the remainder of the book, and found that what I adored in the first half actually turned to an irritation in the second half. Talmadge, in the first half, is a protector, a gentle giant, and someone who looks out for the girls he meets. However, while his character really doesn't change, the fact that he hardly talks to people, doesn't ever open up, and doesn't share key pieces of information with Angelene really irritated me. I also found it frustrating that his character basically ignored those close by at times, only to focus his efforts on the unreachable. I know it was mentioned that perhaps Della needed him more, but so did Angelene.

I think this is why the character of Caroline was more appealing to me - she seemed to be the grounded one for Angelene and didn't shy too much away from telling her what was going on, or pointed out to Talmadge what he should do. Why neither adult found it necessary to ensure she went to school though, is still a mystery to me.

Perhaps the personality traits were ones that Coplin was aiming for - they are secluded, limited in their education, and with limited social interactions of any sort. The non-communicative styles of several characters seem to be a theme of sorts.

I also have to comment on the ending. I don't really know what I was looking for, but it just sort of...ended. I was somewhat underwhelmed, which is a bummer, because I actually loved Coplin's writing style. Her descriptions of the orchards and of Washington in general seemed to be spot on and actually transported me there easily.

I will be curious to see what others thought of this book - did it remind anyone of Steinbeck at all?
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LibraryThing member SteveLindahl
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin is the story of a gentle man who lives in a violent time. I listened to the audio version of this novel, read by Mark Bramhall. A good narrator always brings his interpretation to the story and that was the case here. Bramhall's voice seemed perfectly matched with
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Coplin's novel, like an accomplished pianist performing Chopin. The down side of my listening rather than reading is that I couldn't dwell on the passages I enjoyed. The Orchardist has many cases I would have liked to read a few times before moving on.

I found it interesting that love in this novel has nothing to do with sex. Talmadge's relationships with Jane and Della are non-sexual, like father/daughter relationships; and his relationship with Caroline Middey is the same, although in her case they are two friends who help each other out. Sex is mentioned in the book, but only in negative ways. I can think of three in particular: when it is mentioned that Talmadge had visited a prostitute Caroline recommended, when Michaelson's sadistic behavior is described, and when a few loveless scenes involving Della are described. So although this book is about love, it is nontraditional in its approach.

Another type of love is important to Talmadge, the love of his land. He shows this love by taking care of the land and receiving its gifts with gratitude. He does the same with the people in his world. Although he is always there for the people he cares about, he speaks only when necessary. In fact, all the characters in The Orchardist keep their thoughts to themselves. One of them, Cree, never speaks to anyone, but is a loyal friend when he's needed.

The Orchardist creates a beautiful world through the author's careful writing (mentioned many times by other reviewers). The scenes are excellent, but what impressed me the most was the way Amanda Coplin described the thoughts of her characters. Here's an example from Caroline Middey's point of view:

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, and so truly, that it became a blessing. Or maybe it was the other way around: a blessing first, before a distraction.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys character oriented fiction and American history.

Steve Lindahl - Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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LibraryThing member arielfl
This is the perfect atmospheric choice for fall. Talmadge is a lonely man. He has lost both his parents and his last family member, a sister, disappears from the orchard when he is seventeen. He lives a modest life and finds solace in his work in the family apple orchard. For many years Talmadge
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carries on a rather solitary existence with his only friends being the rather rough around the edges Caroline Middey and a native American Clee. One day two young, starving sisters, Jane and Della show up in town. They are both pregnant and on the run from some truly terrible circumstances. Talmadge tries to help the girls but they are too damaged to be the family he craves. Instead they inadvertently leave him a gift that will change everything in his life.

This story is incredibly well told but it is so sad. The characters go through so much that I kept hoping they would find some peace and happiness. Like life, not everything is tied up in the end in a neat bow. Some characters seem to escape their due punishment while others never stop suffering for the sins committed against them. While this book left me feeling rather melancholy I enjoyed the story and couldn't put it down. This was an excellent debut novel by a gifted author.
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LibraryThing member TheJeanette
Amanda Coplin sets THE ORCHARDIST in central Washington, the region in which she spent her youth. Her knowledge of its history, geography, architecture, and especially its people, draws us into the beauty and ugliness of life in the Wenatchee area around the turn of the 20th century.

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Talmadge is a man of quiet tenacity. He has lived alone for forty years, nurturing his fruit trees and living by the simple rhythm of the seasons. His orchards are his anchor, and he needs little else but the companionship of Caroline Middey, the midwife and herbalist who lives down the road.

Talmadge is well on his way to old age when he discovers two pregnant girls living on his property. Sisters Della and Jane were orphaned and abused, and are rightfully mistrustful of men. They behave like feral animals, circling and watching, darting in to devour the food Talmadge leaves for them before disappearing again. Eventually he earns a measure of their trust, and they allow him to care for them after a fashion. But still they are not safe. The man from whom they escaped is on the hunt, and tragedy looms.

Through his relationship with the girls and their offspring, Talmadge learns that sometimes all the love and self-sacrifice in the world is not enough to repair a damaged spirit. Della is bent on self-destruction and revenge, and Talmadge pays a price for his deep and persistent concern for her well-being.

Coplin's writing is the polar opposite of purple prose, restrained to a degree that sometimes left me wishing for richer descriptions and greater emotional depth. Higher highs and lower lows would let us know the characters more intimately and feel more connected to their experiences. Stylistic choices notwithstanding, Coplin's prose displays a careful polish.

When I started this novel, it felt like I was going to spend forever getting through it. About 75 pages in, I finally connected with story and style, and read long into the night. Eight years in the making, THE ORCHARDIST will garner much-deserved acclaim for new novelist Amanda Coplin.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
I loved absolutely everything about this book: the cover, the setting, the prose and the characters. That this is a first novel is staggering. Talmadge has lived alone for forty years, after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his sister, tending his orchards and giving a free pass to
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the wranglers and Indians that come onto his land with wild horses. His characters is stoic, strong, he is someone who always tries to do the right thing and he is someone I would love to meet in real life. Two young pregnant girls appear and they will be the catalyst for one of his greatest joys but also the cause of much sorrow. The beauty of the orchard is sharply contrasted with the violence that eventually comes his way. Although the subject and the tone verge on the melancholic , the novel is so beautifully written , the descriptions of the land, with the orchards so alive that this novel genders much admiration rather than depression. There are so many quotes I could choose from this book but this one is one of my favorites. "Her hair gathered at her neck, its color in the lantern light like a young oak. How like the orchard she was. Because of her slowness and the attitude in which she held herself - seemingly deferent, quiet - it appeared even a harsh word would smite her. But it would not. She was like an egg encased in iron. She was the dream of the place that bore her, and she did not even know it."
I truly did not want this book to end and wish I could read it again for the first time.
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LibraryThing member Randall.Hansen
I enjoyed this book, partly because of its storytelling, but mainly because it was set in an orchard in Washington... but was bothered by dialogue without use of quotation marks and too many long sentences and sentence fragments. Good read, but not a great read.
LibraryThing member nomadreader
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Bellettres
Talmadge, the orchardist, takes in a pair of sisters, both pregnant by Michaelson, a white slaver. One tragedy follows upon another. All of the characters are sad, unfulfilled, lonely, dark, and guilt-ridden. Coplin paints a very grim picture without much hope for redemption, despite some good
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LibraryThing member wbwilburn5
Lovely book, but depressing at the same time. A story about the futility of our lives!
LibraryThing member aimless22
I finished this book yesterday and decided to let it steep in my head overnight. Reading this debut was a truly extraordinary journey. Amanda Coplin created a story that reads like an omniscient memoir.
Focused on the life of William Talmadge, Ms. Coplin invites us into his mind as well as the minds
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of those he encounters during his life, most of which is spent on his orchard in the Pacific Northwest during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Talmadge tends to his trees and his basic human needs alone for decades before the day two young sisters steal some of his apples from his wagon while he in town selling them. He does not go after the girls and they later turn up on the edge of his field watching him.
The sisters are young, pregnant, and hungry. They have run away from somewhere and/or someone. He generously leaves food for them,, allows them to enter his home while he is in the orchard and slowly takes them into his lonely life.
The following years bring happiness and grief, fear and wonder, love and friendship.
The epic story of Talmadge's life is so wonderfully articulated, it is amazing that this is a first novel. The descriptions of the people, the trees, the chores of everyday life are tenderly written.

I looked back in my notes to see where I first heard about this novel and found a short review in Entertainment Weekly. Stephan Lee writes: "There are echoes of John Steinbeck in this beautiful and haunting debut novel set in early-20th-century Washington State."
I will agree with Mr. Lee. John Steinbeck's influence is easy to recognize, whether intentional or not.
The other thing I enjoyed about this novel is the lack of quotation marks for dialogue. I found myself slowing down to make sure the words were spoken and not thought. The slowing of my reading allowed extra time to take in every lush sentence.
Well worth the time. A truly enjoyable reading experience.
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LibraryThing member JOANNEE
This is hard to believe it is the authors first book. It is told with vivid descriptions and the characters set in an older generation tell of a simplistic life of souls who come together in the wake of cruelty, misfortune and empathy for one another. Talmadge is a gentle man who owns orchards and
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befriends two pregnant young girls who he caught stealing fruit. They have had a horrendous childhood and are fleeing from a sadistic owner. A good read.
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LibraryThing member susiesharp
This is a quiet book about flawed people, what your upbringing can turn you into and why even when given a fighting chance some people can’t get over what was done to them. This isn’t a great drama, or a thrill ride it is really just Talmadge’s story told in a sad way, rueful and
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Talmadge is a quiet man working his orchards and still not over the disappearance of his sister years ago, when one day 2 young girls dirty, hungry and pregnant have wandered onto his property looking for food. The girls Jane & Della & Talmadge finally come to tentative understanding that he will leave them food and he will not try to touch them or talk to them. When the girls go into labor only one baby lives; Angeline, who becomes a huge part of Talmadge’s life, but there is a man looking for these girls and the events of that day will haunt all their lives forever.

This is not a happy story but there is something about it that grabs at your heart plus the imagery of the orchard and the time period is done so beautifully. I am finding it very hard to put into words the emotions this book evoked and honestly I’m not sure if it would have done the same without Mark Bramhall’s narration.

Mark Bramhall’s narration is pretty much a straight read, yet is compelling at the same time. I’ll be honest I don’t usually like straight reads I like variation of characters but Mark Bramhall has this voice that gets your attention with its calm fluidity. I can’t image anyone else’s voice being as perfect for this book as his.

I think this is one of those books that will stay with me awhile and the sad people in it, yet this books is so beautiful , lyrical and flowing. What amazes me is this is a first novel I think Amanda Coplin will be an author to watch and I look forward to more from her!

4 Stars
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
What to say about Amanda Coplin's first novel, THE ORCHARDIST, which has already amassed praise from near and far over the past year or so? Well, it's simply a stunningly beautiful book in every possible way. There is such as sense of quiet dignity about the story, which incorporates the beauty of
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nature as reflected in the fruit trees tended so lovingly and faithfully by its reclusive title character, William Talmadge, and the mountains which surround them in central Washington state around the turn of the last century.

Author Amanda Coplin, despite her youth, displays a sure touch in the descriptions and dialogue of this majestically paced story of loneliness, loss and love of the land. The major characters here - Talmadge, Della, Caroline Middey and Angelene - come completely and realistically to life under Coplin's hand, each reflecting the losses suffered, as well as the solace sometimes found in solitude and work done well.

Talmadge himself is the central enigma of the story. His habitual, sometimes almost maddening, reticence in all things is central to the tragedies which befall him and the others. (Indeed, all of the characters seem to have a problem with looking anyone in the eye, always looking at a space just over the adressee's shoulder, or at a corner of the room, or desk. Its' almost like an epidemic of autistic behavior. Or perhaps just shyness.) But this quiet hesitance to speak is understandable, given the fact of the early loss of his beloved sister and how he spent most of his life subsequently alone, up until the arrival of the two pregnant girls, Jane and Della. The only one who outdoes Talmadge in his silence is Clee, the mute Indian horse trainer. And then there is the character 'mid'way between them, the herbalist and midwife, Caroline Middey, who has also spent most of her life alone, although there is a hint of sorrow there too, in the loss of a beautiful onetime young Indian apprentice, Diana. With the mention of a shrine-like photograph of this girl in Caroline Middey's house, one wonders if this might be a tastefully veiled hint at a romantic relationship between the two women, which would also help explain the completely platonic bond between Middey and Talmadge.

The character Della is a mystery in herself, like the wild and half-broken horses that arrive in the orchards every year, she remains "unknowable" in her "unhandledness." Having been sexually mistreated and traumatized early in her life, by the whoremaster Michaelson (who may also be her father) and stillborn twins, she comes across as a wild thing, ruled by whims and passions without regard to consequences. Her niece, Angelene, brought bloodily into the world by Talmadge, seems the only nearly normal character, a product of being guarded and looked after by Caroline Middey and Talmadge.

The sure but stately progress of the plotline and the elegance of the language and its halting exactness brought to mind Reynolds Price and his SURFACE OF EARTH trilogy, or perhaps Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD, Jeffrey Lent's IN THE FALL, or Molly Gloss's THE HEARTS OF HORSES, which is, like this novel, set in the Pacific Northwest of the early 1900s.

I kept looking for significance in the characters' names (my own little quirk as a reader), but didn't really find much, aside from Caroline Middey, the midwife. But then there was the villainous, opium-addicted Michaelson, who, reformed, began calling himself DeQuincey, so of course I thought of the DeQuincey who authored "Confessions of an English Opium Eater." I couldn't help but wonder if Coplin considered this when she had this villain take a new identity.

Well, whaddayaknow? I guess I found something to say about the book after all. Plenty has already been said, but the comments I found most annoying were those quibbling and complaining about the dropping of quotation marks from dialogue. My response: So what?
I'll finish where I started. A stunningly beautiful book. Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member elsyd
At the begining I wasn't sure this was for me, but the further I read the better I liked it. This is the story of a solitary man in pioneer times. After the loss of his mother and sister, at different times, he becomes somewhat of a recluse. Two young girls come to his secluded farm. He helps them
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as best he can and the story unfolds. He suffers much and gains much from the aid he is able to give them.
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LibraryThing member pinkcrayon99
Talmadge is a loner. He is also an orchardist. His mother brought he and his sister to the orchard when he was only nine years old. He is the only one left. The men and the horses come each year to help with the harvests. Clee, the Indian, has always accompanied the men since he was a child. He and
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Talmadge have been friends for that long. Now Clee leads the men back to the orchard each year. When Jane and Della appear in the orchard, Talmadge's quite life of solitude among the fruit trees is interrupted forever.

When Jane and Della arrive at the orchard they both are pregnant and will not allow Talmadge near them. He had to lure them in like you would a frighten and abused animal. And abused they had been. He sets out food for them. They watch and follow him at a safe distance. Jane is the elder. Talmadge confides in his friend Caroline Middey about the girls. Caroline is skeptical but assists. The babies come and only one lives, they name her Angelene. Jane is her mother.

Talmadge is a quite character but not a peaceful one. He has a lot of inner turmoil and discontentment. You want Talmadge, Jane, and Della, to be a "happy" family but it can't be due to the horrific and tramatic past events all parties have suffered through. Instead of Angelene being the connective thread she turns into somewhat of a pawn for Talmadge. She is loyal to him. Della, the rebel, is restless throughout the entire novel. Della not only drained Talmadge but, in my opinion, she was a burden on me the reader.

The Orchardist is equally full of extreme beauty and tragedy. The scenes in the orchard allows the reader to escape from all the darkness of the characters. Coplin describes the landscape so vividly that you feel as if you are walking down the rows of plum, apple, and apricot trees. My favorite scenes from the book is the yearly arrival of the horses to the orchard. Like the characters you anticipate their arrival. Words escape me as to how to describe it. During a difficult time in the novel, Angelene gives Della a gift and it was so touching. It was one of those "hidden nuggets" that are in well written novels that the reader may miss if they aren't paying close attention.

Like Twelve Tribes of Hattie, I did not love or hate The Orchardist but I cannot not deny the fact that it is beautifully written. These aren't lollipop characters. They are dark, complex, and haunting. There is also a calmness about them that allows you to enjoy the story. The beginning and ending of this novel is quite enveloping but you can get bogged down in the middle.

ARC provided by publisher. In no way does this influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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LibraryThing member kmaziarz
Middle-aged Talmadge is a solitary type. He’s been alone on his sprawling orchard in the Pacific Northwest since he was a teenager and his younger sister vanished…run off or kidnapped, it was never clear. Every once in a while, a band of Nez Perce horse traders camps on his land and helps with
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the fruit picking, and he spends some time with the local midwife, Caroline Middey. But otherwise, Talmadge is alone. When two pregnant teenagers steal some of his fruit from a stand in town, he doesn’t give chase. When the same two girls show up on his land, living in his orchard, he begins cooking extra food and putting it out on the front porch for them. He is beginning to win them over; the girls, feral as cats, are beginning to trust him as they’ve never trusted a man before. But when the man from whom the girls were running shows up to find them, a shocking act of violence will change all of their lives forever.

Set in the early years of the 20th century, there is nevertheless a timeless quality to this novel. Talmadge’s orcharded valley is a haven for him and for the girls alike. Rich, lush descriptions of the natural world and Talmadge’s simple life draw the reader into his world, but Coplin does not sentimentalize. Talmadge’s world is also a hard one, and the girls’ lives have not been easy, nor do they get any easier. Captivating and eloquent.
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LibraryThing member julie10reads
Coplin's compelling, well-crafted debut tracks the growing obsession of orchardist William Talmadge, who has lived at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains since the summer of 1857, when he was nine. A loner shaped by the land he loves, Talmadge has carefully tended his orchard for nearly 50
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years. His only real confidante is Caroline Middey, an herbalist, midwife, and natural healer. His orderly life is altered forever when two runaway girls, Jane and Della, arrive at the edge of his orchard, dirty, starving, and pregnant. A tragedy leaves Talmadge caring for Jane's baby, Angelene. Della has no interest in childcare or boring fruit picking and soon takes off with the horse wranglers who visit Talmadge's field every spring. Talmadge cannot accept Della's desire to leave the orchard, which in his mind strangely parallels the disappearance of his sister Elsbeth when they were children. Still tortured by Elsbeth's unexplained disappearance, he attempts to help Della in a way he couldn't help his sister, but this obsession leads Talmadge into increasingly dark terrain. Summary BPL

Impressive first novel by Ms Coplin! Dense, unsentimental, metaphoric, The Orchardist transcribes the slow and elemental nature of life in late 19th century Washington. Through the concrete minutiae of Talmadge's, the "orchardist's", life, the author unveils grand themes of love and guardianship, growth and fruition, confirming Henri Nouwen's opinion that what is most personal is also most universal. At 426 pages, it can seem at times more dilatory than expansive (but economy of words is a preference of mine--in American storytelling I prefer the spare sentences of Willa Cather to the voluminous paragraphs of Herman Melville).

7.5 out of 10 Recommended to fans of American literature and historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member 2LZ
I really enjoyed The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. It was not a happy story, but one that touched me nonetheless. Talmadge was such a kind character, a care-giver, a father figure. As a young man, he had suffered the loss of his sister from which he never fully recovered. He was a solitary man, but
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he had friends that he trusted. He wasn't a conversationalist, but he was comfortable with silence. He wasn't secretive, but he wasn't forthcoming either. Although he made mistakes, they were made with the best of intentions. He was a good man, trying to do what he thought was right.

Talmadge's life changed when he protected two abused teenage runaways, Jane and Della, that wandered on to his orchard, pregnant and desperate. Though the two girls were wary and feral, Talmadge gave them a place to live, fed them, and as much as the girls would let him, cared for them. The subsequent relationship he had with Angelene was heartwarming, and to visualize this middle aged man working his orchard carrying a baby in a papoose on his back was incredibly endearing and revealing of the character of this very private man. Caroline Middey, Talmadge's long-time, blunt friend, who assumed the motherly role to Angelene, rounded out this unusual family. Talmadge, Angelene, and Caroline, made a special life for themselves. They loved one another dearly, and it was an unconditional love. They took care of one another, and they were a family in the truest sense of the word.

Essentially, this is a story about family and all of the love and hardships that go with it. It's about standing by one another in the toughest of times. It's about being present during the happy, beautiful moments, but also during the disappointments and regrets.

My only complaint about the novel was that it was a little too long, and it dragged in places. However, it was well-written, and although not a fast-paced story, I was completely engaged throughout. If you like character-driven stories, then I highly recommend this book.
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