The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin; HarperCollins, 2012. 426 pages; $15.99 (paperback); reading level: adult.

Pairs of relationships drive the plot of this beautifully-written, tightly structured novel (Coplin’s first). In 1865, when William Talmadge is an orphaned 17-year-old living in what will later be the state of Washington, his younger sister goes into the forest to collect herbs and never returns. Talmadge deals with his guilt over not having protected her by taking in two abused, pregnant young sisters who wander onto his property years later. When one of the sisters commits suicide and the other, Della, leaves to pursue a self-destructive life, Talmadge assumes responsibility for Della’s niece, Angelene. Against the backdrop of the orchard, the anchor holding all the splintered relationships together, the story twists and turns until each character finds a whisper of peace and the novel ends on a hopeful note. There are profound insights here into the joys and dangers of solitude and into how difficult it is for damaged human beings to give and receive love. The haunting tone Coplin strikes reaches soul deep and lingers long after the soaring, redemptive final paragraphs.  This is a book not to be missed.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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