At the turn of the 20th century in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a gentle solitary orchardist, Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots. Then two feral, pregnant girls and armed gunmen set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
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.