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 ... Coplin’s saga of a makeshift family unmoored by loss should be depressing, but, instead, her achingly beautiful prose inspires exhilaration ... In fewer than 100 pages, Coplin has established the brooding central theme for the rest of her novel: People don’t get over their losses and failures; they try to make up for them in disastrous ways ... Angelene’s final epiphany equals in stark grandeur similar scenes in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Pat Barker’s Another World — heady company for a first novelist, but Coplin’s talent merits such comparisons.
Coplin establishes a clear parallel between these needy, damaged girls and Talmadge's long-lost sister Elsbeth, showing a solitary man opening up to the renewed possibility of family ... Coplin is masterful at tracing the inner life of the troubled Della, and the release she finds in taming wild horses ... 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.
Amanda Coplin follows the path of American epic naturalist writers such as John Steinbeck in her beautifully written debut, in the way she tracks the movement of communities and examines the relationship between people and their environment ... This is a story about loss and yearning and an unusual attempt to create a family ... Coplin describes in beautiful, supple prose how Della defies convention by learning to ride, and her subsequent life as a horsewoman, before her demons throw her off course once more. The author's views are fatalistic: her characters will follow the course they've been set upon ... Coplin skilfully evokes her characters' oneness with the land as she describes the grafting of new branches on to trees; the precise way apricots should be picked; the changing seasons ... From brooding long over deceptively simple ingredients, Coplin has created a psychologically complex novel of considerable emotional power.
...a novel as sparse, powerful, majestic and unsettling as the late 1800s frontier that serves as its setting ... Coplin's prose is fresh and compelling, bringing Talmadge and the other characters to vivid life. The most memorable include Clee, who stopped talking the day his Indian village was raided and his mother kidnapped from their teepee, and midwife Caroline Middey, who cured a young Talmadge of venereal disease ... While the ending of this striking debut may not make every reader happy, it is, undoubtedly, the right one for both the book and for Talmadge, an unlikely hero who -- like the book -- is true to life and sweetly honest from beginning to end.
In The Orchardist, first-time novelist Amanda Coplin accomplishes an even trickier feat, blending past and present by weaving modern concerns into an old-fashioned narrative. The result is a drama of truly epic proportions ... This is one of those rare novels in which the individual parts are so brilliantly rendered that together they form a near-perfect reading experience. The characters are written with such compassion and the writing rings with a conviction and emotional honesty that belies Coplin’s youth.
As the novel unfolds, the characters become as familiar as a favorite pair of shoes, though hardly as comfortable. Coplin has a fine hand with detail; her narrative lacks detour or waste. Her characters are one with their finely rendered surroundings, be they orchard, town or the world beyond Peshastin. Her pacing is flawless, with just enough exposition at the novel’s start to allow that which follows to hang as a whole cloth ... This is a novel to burrow into, to be submerged in a world that is both lovely and hard. It’s a world that becomes so real that one only leaves by being forced out by the closing of the covers that enfold it.
Coplin’s majestic debut follows a makeshift family through two tragic decades ... Coplin offers no answers, only the hard certainties of labor and of love that are seldom enough to ease a beloved’s pain. Yet the novel is so beautifully written, so alive to the magnificence of the land and the intricate mysteries of human nature, that it inspires awe rather than depression ... Superb work from an abundantly gifted young writer.
Coplin relates the story with appropriate restraint, given Talmadge’s reserved personality, and yet manages to evoke a world where the effects of two dramatic losses play out within a strikingly beautiful natural landscape ... Coplin refuses to sentimentalize. Instead, she demonstrates that courage and compassion can transform unremarkable lives and redeem damaged souls. In the end, 'three graves [lie] side by side,' yet this eloquent, moving novel concludes on a note of affirmation.