William Talmadge was brought to a remote part of Washington, near Wenatchee, by his mother at a very young age. They began to plant trees, and after Talmadge's mother dies and his sister disappears, he is alone on his fairly successful orchard. The Orchardist is historic, although I couldn't find a specific reference to dates. I believe it is the late 1800s to early 1900s (the book spans several decades.)
Two young women begin to hang around the orchard, and Talmadge leaves food for them and leaves blankets and supplies to aid their survival. They have obviously run away, and Talmadge hears about some men looking for two young women.
Talmage becomes their protector and begins a tentative relationship with them. It soon becomes apparent that both women are pregnant. Angelene is born at the orchard, and through some tragic circumstances, becomes Talmadge's adopted daughter.
That's really all I want to say about the plot, because you need to discover the story as you read. The setting of The Orchardist is stunning. The reader is IN the orchard as it is described.
The characters are unique and to me, a bit frustrating. These are quiet people. They don't divulge their feelings. They don't talk through things. They keep secrets. There isn't any romance, but deep, loving friendships (although no one ever uses the word "love.")
The Orchardist is written in the third person, and while there are quotes, there are no quotation marks. Don't expect much action or even much drama. No romance. No graphic violence. No happy ending (although appropriate.) This is a quiet, meandering story that is so well-written you become immersed in the lives of these people and can't help but care deeply for them. I would have liked to know a bit more about the life of the character at the end. We know about the orchard's future, but not really the character.
The Orchardist is not a book I would recommend to many teens. If you love character studies with a historical aspect and unique and immersive settings, then put The Orchardist on your list.
Published by Harper, 2012
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