THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Coplin

Orchar3One plot blurb called this historical fiction. I guess any story set in a time that is not the present nor the future is historical fiction.  This beautiful book is set in the Pacific Northwest starting in the late 1800s and into the 1900s.   I love reading work set in this time period and in the American west and northwest.  (Should west and northwest be West and Northwest?  I am too lazy to look up which is correct.)  It makes me want to live there, back when it was sparsely populated and we hadn’t chopped down all the trees and polluted all the rivers and streams.

This is the story of Talmadge.  When he was a young boy living in a mining camp with his younger sister and parents, his father died in a mining accident.  His mother buried all the mining equipment, and took the kids off to live in a remote region in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, so that would be Washington state?  Oregon?   She brings them to an old cabin and begins to set up a small orchard.   After a few years, she dies, and Talmadge is left to care for his sister.  They gradually enlarge the orchard and he earns some money selling the fruit in a nearby town.  During this time, a group of Indians come onto his land bring a large herd of horses, unbroken, wild, from the mountains, and they spent some time breaking the horses before taking them to the auctions.   Talmadge becomes friends with one of the Indians, Clee, mute but friendly.

One day, his sister, now a teen, goes into the woods to pick berries, and never returns.   There is no sign of her, nor of any tragedy that might have befallen her.   The Indians and Talmadge spend a lot of time looking in ever widening circles, but never find a thing. This mysterious disappearance  haunts Talmadge all his life, and colors his future actions.

One day, in his middle years, two young girls appear at the edge of his orchard.  They are both obviously pregnant.  They have escaped from a man operating as a human trafficker who holds young girls prisoner and sells their services, sometimes selling the girls themselves.  And thus, bit by bit, Talmadge’s life changes dramatically.

Lots going on in this story, very dramatic, very compelling.  Beautiful writing.  It is just hard to put down.





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