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Published: Harper - August 21st, 2012
Set in the untamed American West, a highly original and haunting debut novel about a makeshift family whose dramatic lives are shaped by violence, love, and an indelible connection to the land
"When you pick up The Orchardist, you will be lured at first by the lushness of the language, the razor-sharp vividness of the descriptive passages. But soon enough-before you've finished the first chapter-the characters will take hold of you and you'll read on hungrily, as if under a spell. It's hard to believe that this is Amanda Coplin's first novel. Already, she is a masterful writer, the teller of an epic, unvarnished tale that sits comfortably with other novels in the tradition of great American storytelling."-Wally Lamb
You belong to the earth, and the earth is hard.
At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a solitary orchardist named Talmadge carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century. A gentle, solitary man, he finds solace and purpose in the sweetness of the apples, apricots, and plums he grows, and in the quiet, beating heart of the land-the valley of yellow grass bordering a deep canyon that has been his home since he was nine years old. Everything he is and has known is tied to this patch of earth. It is where his widowed mother is buried, taken by illness when he was just thirteen, and where his only companion, his beloved teenaged sister Elsbeth, mysteriously disappeared. It is where the horse wranglers-native men, mostly Nez Perce-pass through each spring with their wild herds, setting up camp in the flowering meadows between the trees.
One day, while in town to sell his fruit at the market, two girls, barefoot and dirty, steal some apples. Later, they appear on his homestead, cautious yet curious about the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, Jane and her sister Della take up on Talmadage's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Yet just as the girls begin to trust him, brutal men with guns arrive in the orchard, and the shattering tragedy that follows sets Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect them, putting himself between the girls and the world, but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Writing with breathtaking precision and empathy, Amanda Coplin has crafted an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in. Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, she weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune, bound by their search to discover the place they belong. At once intimate and epic, evocative and atmospheric, filled with haunting characters both vivid and true to life, and told in a distinctive narrative voice, The Orchardist marks the beginning of a stellar literary career.