The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

1. First lines. 2. Published 2012 Harper Collins 3. Cottonwood tree By Todd Morris [CC BY SA] via Flickr Changes: Background removed, cropped, colour lightened 4. Overgrown graveyard [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Changes: Cropped, colour lightened. 5. Image from page 169 of “The American apple orchard; a sketch of the practice of apple growing in North America at the beginning of the twentieth century” (1908) [No known copyright restrictions] via Flickr
Unhurried, quiet and dreamlike.

William Talmadge is an orchardist on his farm near the Washington State town of Cashmere in the early twentieth century. He has lived alone since his sister disappeared into the forest as a teenager, his parents both dead. One day, two young pregnant girls, Della and Jane, approach the orchard stealing fruit, and Talmadge supports them with food and shelter, although they remain living in the forest. Throughout his life, he is utterly involved in the girls’ lives, as they bear children and suffer tragedies.

“The narrow bed with its purple, red, and green quilt, the bedside table with its jar of rocks, piled books. The porcelain basin near the window where she washed her face, the pitcher with the brown rose painted on it, the large crack like a vein in the bottom of the basin. The apricot orchard, the buzzing bees like a haze in spring. The barn—the smell of hay and manure, grease, old leather. The sun streaming through the slats. The mule’s nose in her palm.”

“The man said that a portion of track just up into the mountain pass had been damaged by a rockslide early that morning, and they had shut down the whole system for maybe as long as the rest of the summer. The man shook his head, incredulous, disgusted, but also delighted in the way that people are often delighted by bad news, or the opportunity to discuss bad news that does not immediately affect them.” 

“She revered solitude, but only because there was the possibility of breaking it.” 

~Quotes from “The Orchardist” by Amanda Coplin
  • Washington Post: “Amanda Coplin’s somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. Steeped in the timeless rhythms of agriculture, her story unfolds in spare language as her characters thrash against an existential sense of meaninglessness.”
  • National Public Radio: The Orchardist is a stunning accomplishment, hypnotic in its storytelling power, by turns lyrical and gritty, and filled with marvels. Coplin displays a dazzling sense of craftsmanship, and a talent for creating characters vivid and true. She also gives us insightful glimpses of the American West in the throes of a massive shift away from the agricultural style of life. 
  • Kirkus: “Superb work from an abundantly gifted young writer.”

Other editions.

Author: Amanda Coplin

Notable Awards: 2013 Washington State Book Award for Fiction; 2013 American Book Award ; 2014 Finalist Oregon Book Award Nominee for Fiction (Finalist)

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