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Books

Great read: The Orchardist

A first-time author serves up a beautifully unpredictable novel dealing with how love can conquer even the darkest past.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, W&N fiction, $29.99.
There's something entrancing about this unpredictable story, set in the American West at the turn of the 20th century, which can't help but capture your heart.
First of all, it's the landscape — rugged, wild nature at its most punishing, but also at times at its most rewarding, making a pact with those who choose to work with it and respect it.
Yet more than the attractions of a natural world impeccably drawn, Amanda Coplin's characters pull you in and won't let you go.
Protagonist Talmadge, who lost his mother young and with his sister nurtured a scrappy orchard into abundant acres of apples and apricots, hits a life-defining rocky patch when his sister disappears into the surrounding forest one day.
What may have happened to his sibling soul-mate dominates Talmadge's character and when two feral petrified pregnant teenage girls cross his path, Talmadge's inate response is to try to save them.
Through his own investigation, he discovers the unspeakably cruel and shocking back story to the girls' situation and without further thought determines to disrupt his ordered, solitary world and create a place where they can learn to trust him and grow in peace.
However, the dangers of their past do inevitably and dramatically come knocking and tragedy hits this unconventional new family, leaving Talmadge with a baby girl and her now deeply traumatised mother to raise.
The fragile but oh so deeply felt bond between this surrogate daughter, her mother and the empathetic older man makes up the central tension of the novel.
It is a lyrical and beautifully written book dealing with big emotional issues which, I suspect, author Amanda Coplin didn't quite know how to conclude, but which stays playing on your mind long after the final page.
About the author: Amanda Coplin
Thirty-one-year-old author Amanda Coplin was born and raised in Washington State where, she says, "the orchard landscape and my family were the most important things in my life".
She can't remember at what age she decided to be a writer, saying only that she "always wanted to write".
The manuscript for this debut novel caused a fierce auction in the US, which Amanda says "felt — and still feels — unbelievable".
Amanda says she was "visited by a vision of the book's three characters and wanted to explore the tension between them".
She currently lives in Oregon with partner Ted Salk and is still waiting for a vision to inspire her next project.

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