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The Orchardist

The Orchardist

Written by Amanda Coplin

Narrated by Mark Bramhall


The Orchardist

Written by Amanda Coplin

Narrated by Mark Bramhall

ratings:
4/5 (69 ratings)
Length:
14 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Aug 21, 2012
ISBN:
9780062204851
Format:
Audiobook

Description

“[A] mysterious, compelling, elemental novel….In The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin shows us what’s unknowable.”
—Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award finalist, American Salvage

“Within this world are compelling characters and their equally compelling stories. The Orchardist is an outstanding debut.”
—Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and The Cove

“Coplin 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, New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed

At once intimate and epic, The Orchardist is historical fiction at its best, in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, and Toni Morrison. In her stunningly original and haunting debut novel, Amanda Coplin evokes a powerful sense of place, mixing tenderness and violence as she spins an engrossing tale of a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the untamed American West, and the dramatic consequences of his actions. 

Publisher:
Released:
Aug 21, 2012
ISBN:
9780062204851
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Amanda Coplin was born in Wenatchee, Washington. She received her BA from the University of Oregon and MFA from the University of Minnesota. A recipient of residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York, she lives in Portland, Oregon.


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What people think about The Orchardist

3.9
69 ratings / 88 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    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 … nothing really happens.
  • (4/5)
    Quite good. Some stylistic choices I didn't quite get. The lack of quotations when characters were speaking was only noticeable for the first 50 or so pages. Calling Caroline Middey her full name was redundant and unnecessary. Noticeable always.

    The story was fascinating and the strong female characters were a delight, even if there situation was often anything but.
  • (3/5)
    a story set in the pnw at the turn of the century. some wonderful writing, a very comfortable read. interesting characters
  • (4/5)
    Talmadge, an apricot and apple grower in the state of Washington, lives a life of solitude in harmony with the land. His life is disrupted by the arrival of Della and Jane, two teenaged sisters who have escaped a life as sexual captives. Gradually the two are brought into his home until their sadistic master appears. Violence ensues. Talmadge is left to care for Della and her daughter Angelene. The theme of loss is central. Talmadge lost his entire family; the mysterious disappearance of his teenaged sister was especially traumatic for him. His decision to help Della and Jane can be seen as a way of creating a family; perhaps he is hoping that someone helped Elsbeth as he helps the two girls. Della suffers loses of her own; her way of dealing with loss is to seek vengeance even though that path may destroy her. Talmadge emerges as the hero. He is not perfect; his lack of communication, for example, causes unnecessary problems, and he makes mistakes in his attempts to help Della. He is, however, eminently admirable. He is a good man who tries to protect those whom he has brought into his life. He never gives up trying to rescue Della as she continues to be pursued by her demons. And just as he nurtures his fruit trees, he nurtures Angelene. The tragedy is that it is not possible to protect people from themselves or to heal a damaged spirit like it is possible to protect or heal a damaged fruit tree. Talmadge is not the only memorable character. The herbalist Caroline Middey and Clee, the mute Nez Perce, emerge as worthy friends. Della is feral and damaged, yet sympathetic. In personality, Angelene becomes the daughter Talmadge never had.I purchased this novel as an audiobook; I listened to it only when I was driving a considerable distance so I actually listened to it over a period of about four months. Normally in such circumstances, I would have difficulty remembering events and characters, but that was not the case. The book had an almost hypnotic effect on me, and I had no difficulty being drawn into its world every time I listened.
  • (4/5)
    This book is beautifully written and it is hard to believe that it is a first novel for Ms. Coplin. She writes exquisitely. The setting is late 19 and early 20 century and the place is Washington State. The story is really about Talmadge, the Orchardist. Talmadge is a quiet man who lives by himself. He is a man that will visit with close friends and enjoys doing this every so often, but he much prefers the quiet and solitude of his own orchard. He carries around a great sadness since his beloved sister disappeared without a trace when they were both young and living together on the orchard. Talmadge never finds out what happened to his sister and this haunts him for the rest of his life. Then one day two very dirty and very pregnant young girls steal some fruit from him on one of his visits to town. From this random act, Talmadge finds that his life is inexplicably twined with theirs, and his life forever changes. These two young girls have escaped from a truly terrible life. They are on the run from the man who has kept them imprisoned for his own and for his customers' sexual needs. Della and Jane are strangely drawn to Talmadge after they help themselves to some of his fruit. They find a form of peace with this quiet and gentle man. They don't allow him to communicate with them except on a minimal level, but they stay near his cabin and eat the food that he provides for them. The girls have their babies. One loses hers and the other gives birth to a little girl. Then life intrudes and Talmadge is visited by the man who abused the two girls. Terrible consequences occur after this and the rest of the book is about how Talmadge reconciles himself to some of the choices that he has made with respect to the two girls. This book is so unremittingly sad that I found it difficult at times to continue to read, but did so because Ms. Coplin's prose is so wonderfully crafted. I also anticipated that the book would be historical fiction because of the time frame, but it really wasn't that. It's a story of lives lived, hardships experienced and decisions made as a result of happenings. It also first and foremost a book about Talmadge. Ms. Coplin has drawn a picture of a man who is not to be forgotten.
  • (2/5)
    Toward the end of this book, the title character reflects on a life that has been dramatic and sordid in spite of itself. I felt rather the opposite about this story. It's uncanny how so many salacious events could make for such a sleepy plot. I mean that almost literally--listening to this book in the car, I felt myself start to nod off once or twice. If you like horses and/or fruit, then there's enough in this book to sustain you. If you're expecting anything else, whether that be a wild west yarn or a heartwarming not-all-families-are-related tale, look elsewhere.
  • (5/5)
    What an astonishing book. I considered and passed by this novel several times before giving it a chance, and I'm glad I did.
    This is a quiet tale...not in terms of plot but in how the author presents the different lives. There is a lot of upheaval for the individuals, and each has to work out their relationships with each other in their self-made family and with others. But the voice and how each of the events and relationships are presented is paced in a way that makes you feel the lives they are leading.
    Really an exceptional experience.
  • (1/5)
    couldn't finish; story not compelling enough;writing not engaging
  • (4/5)
    There were nights when I stayed up too late to finish a section. Other nights, it was such a chore to continue reading, I fell asleep. The fact that there were no quotation marks was hard to get used to. I didn't know if the character was talking to themselves or to someone else. The author extensively used hyphens (dashes?) and after a while, it was annoying because it made me go back to re-read the sentence again. Having noted the stylistic problems I had, it was an interesting story set in an unfamiliar location. I dug out my road atlas to see just where all of these places were located. It was a good geography lesson for a new resident of Washington State. The fact that Talmadge didn't really know how to interact with Della or Jane shouldn't have been a surprise. He had lived alone for so long and his memories of his mother (who looked for a solitary life) and his sister who disappeared, I don't think anyone in the family did much talking. What did surprise me was how he stepped up to the plate and cared for Angelene. His obsession about Della was over the top, but I suppose when someone is trying to rescue you from yourself, that's how it seems. I appreciated the no-nonsense style of Caroline Middey, but why was she always called by her full name? There was no one else in the story with a name remotely like hers.
  • (4/5)
    William Talmadge tends to his orchards with great care. When two young teenage girls turn-up, pregnant, he tries to take care of them too and his story unfolds from there. This is a well written, wonderfully descriptive and evocative tale that triggers all sorts of emotions. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • (5/5)
    I really loved this book, the perfect balance of story and lyrical writing. This book draws you in like a dream or a meditation on people and place.
  • (3/5)
    Good book club book.Talmadge and his family travel from the Oregon Territory to an area where his mother and then himself can plant and orchard and use the goods in barter with others for items for their livelihood.Two girls come to his orchard. One gives birth and commits suicide. The other stays but travels with a group of men who want to capture wild horses.The child who was born stays with Talmadge and we see the history of their relationship.A good slice of life.
  • (4/5)
    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. 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.
  • (4/5)
    Lyrical. Fascinates me that all the characters were single... Highlights individualism theme
  • (4/5)
    The Orchardist is Amanda Coplin's first novel. She delivers beautifully developed characters that one comes to love. The location is Washington state in the last half of the 19th century and early 20th century. Talmadge is a solitary man who has experienced much loss and has developed an orchard of apricots, apples, and plums. In his middle age two starving, pregnant, teenage girls appear at the edge of his world to steal fruit. In tending to them as he does the orchard an unusual family is formed. There is love, sadness, and redemption in this story of lives that have been broken by hard times and human cruelty. I should add that I kept going to the cupboard for dried apricots while I read this story...so you may want to stock up if you plan on reading this book.
  • (4/5)
    Yes this book was slow going, yes sometimes you were just waiting for something to happen, but I still liked it a lot. I thought it was an interesting story about different characters that are not often subjects for a novel. You really did understand all the idiosyncrasies of the main characters and why they behaved in a certain way. I liked the author's fluid and descriptive writing style
  • (3/5)
    Well written but became very draggy in the middle and never really picked up.
  • (4/5)
    AUDIO. Excellent story, excellent narration. Gentle orchardist takes in 2 runaway girls
  • (5/5)
    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 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.
  • (4/5)
    The Orchardist is quite a project for a first novel! It is not only the story of the orchadist but also of the females in his life. There are recurring themes of grief and loneliness. We follow the orchardist as a boy traveling west with his mother and sister to the end of his life. His encounters with a couple of runaway girls is a major part of his story. The author does an amazing job describing the characters and events and exploring their thoughts and feelings. I did have some problem following the details and would have liked more historical details. The story has some interesting twists and I really enjoyed it.
  • (5/5)
    A craggy solitary orchardist's life intersects with two pregnant teens fleeing from a truly unspeakable situation. The book follows life, birth, death, companionship, love, nurturing. All of which is mirrored in the orchards, where fruit trees must be tenderly cared for in order that they bear their fruit, as the characters bear theirs.The fruit trees are a powerful metaphor whose fruit is not always plump and juicy; sometimes it is rotten.A compelling book you will not soon forget
  • (5/5)
    This was a beautiful story well told. It reminded me of Cold Mountain. The quiet simplicity of the setting and characters was mesmerizing. This is a book that would not be diminished by rereading.
  • (4/5)
    This was beautifully written. The description of setting and nature is up there with Steinbeck in my view. As sad as the day is long, say in summer, in Alaska...I think maybe we need a new genre...American Tragedy. No offense to Mr. Dreiser, whose book I haven't read. If you are the sort that is freaked out by a lack of quotation marks, beware. I never noticed until I was more than half way done, since I was reading on my old Kindle, and that is still weird enough as it is. An excellent exploration of what makes a family, and lots of opportunity for in-depth character exploration for your book club. Don't miss it.
  • (5/5)
    My mother and I rarely like the same books, but this is an exception and falls a bit outside of my normal reading genres. It’s solid literary fiction, but far enough in the past to be historical fiction as well. What drew me to read it were the characters, an orchardist and some orphans, the distinct location, Wenatchee Washington (a place I’ve been and recall a traffic jam at the town’s one stoplight, well it seemed like one stoplight) and the praise it has gotten. Well-deserved praise. It’s written with verve and creativity and while a lot of what is described is pretty quotidian, it remained taut and interesting throughout.The real stand-out are Coplin’s characterizations. Starting with William Talmage, the Orchardist of the title and his relationship with local midwife Caroline Middey and then introducing the two orphan girls who show up in town. Don’t get too comfortable with how you imagine the story will go; it won’t. I promise. While nothing terribly dramatic happens, things take turns that I didn’t expect and didn’t understand. Particularly with Della. I didn’t have much patience with her or her sister, Jane, but they said and did things that kept me guessing and intrigued. I think a situation like this could only be plausible in the past. Now, the state and local authorities would take over and Caroline and Talmage would never have had the opportunity to care for the girls or enrich their lives with the person that Angelene became. How they bond gives a tremendous sense of community that I rarely encounter in the novels I read and I hope Coplin writes more.
  • (5/5)
    This young author writes like a very old soul. Exquisitely beautiful and sad. Recommend.
  • (3/5)
    Nicely written. However, that ALL of the characters were so totally reclusive was hard for me to "swallow". I listened to the audiobook and it was well done. Sometimes as I was listening I found myself thinking that this seemed to be a pretty long book to contain such a limited cast. For example, Angelique never mentioned a school friend or peer? Young Jane & Della's early behavior was understandable, but I just couldn't get how the rest of them could really develop in the social isolation described. This made the story, and its resolution, rather bland for my taste. Was that the point? Of four people who were totally "stuck"? I don't know ... I won't have this book on my list of recommended reading for friends.
  • (4/5)
    A slow, evocatively written read, mostly about relationships, family, and memory. The author's interview sheds more light on the story, and was a nice inclusion, not always the case. Comparisons to Steinbeck are apt, I think. Not a lot of happiness, but some contentness, some peace-- and the question I have: is that enough?
  • (3/5)
    I was so looking forward to this book but it became a plodding project just to get finished. The story premise has great promise and the writing reflects the era in which the characters are placed but it moves along like the growing season it portrays-slow and methodical. It is not an uplifting tale and the reader wonders what is the point the end of the story.
  • (5/5)
    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 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.
  • (5/5)
    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 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