2014 Oregon Book Award Readers Choice Award
Amanda Coplin’s debut novel fits squarely into the Really Wonderful Novel category, and deserves a far wider readership. Set among the apple orchards of Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, The Orchardist follows the life of the introspective Talmadge, who, as a child, loses his family in quick succession to accident, illness, and mystery. As an adult, Talmadge’s solitary life is disrupted by the arrival of two pregnant runaway prostitutes, Della and Jane, and the drama that trails behind them. Coplin does a magnificent job of depicting the almost paradisiacal valley landscape, aided and threatened by the arrival of the steam engine, and of the diverse people who call it home: Nez Perce horsemen, frontier criminals and victims, farmers, and tenacious pioneer women. I fell in love with Talmadge’s paternal gentleness and Della’s ferociousness, and with the gorgeous and bygone fruit-laden land where their stories take place. But don’t mistake The Orchardist for a nostalgia piece — Coplin’s storytelling is wise to our tendency to mythologize and soften the West, and resists it with profound characters and a love for the region strong enough to admit its faults and wonders. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A Best Book of the Year
Washington Post • Seattle Times • The Oregonian National Public Radio • Amazon • Kirkus Reviews Publishers Weekly • The Daily Beast
An Indie Next Pick
A Barnes & Noble Discover Pick
At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit at the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase.
Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect them but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts 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.
"Many contemporary novelists have revisited the question of what constitutes a family, but few have responded in a voice as resolute and fiercely poetic." New York Times Book Review
"Amanda Coplin's somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. You can only be thrilled by a 31-year-old writer with this depth of understanding...the final epiphany equals in stark grandeur similar scenes in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Pat Barker's Another World." Washington Post
"A stunning debut...The Orchardist is a poetic book, but its strength doesn't lie solely in its language. Coplin's understanding of abuse and the lasting effects of fear and loss on the individual psyche are deeply resonant. As a debut novel, The Orchardist stands on par with Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain." The Oregonian (Portland)
"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." Jane Ciabattari, NPR
"A breathtaking work from a genuinely accomplished writer...Coplin's lyrical style and forceful storytelling provide many unexpected twists before the poignant conclusion." Library Journal
"Coplin's mesmerizing debut stands out with its depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape that will settle deeply into readers' bones." Booklist
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.