Just like the apples that are ripe in our own state’s orchards, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, begs to be picked off the shelf and brought into your home to be devoured. It’s rare that we find such a well-written novel based in Washington State, but here it is and written by a young author herself who grew up in the very setting her books unfolds. Amanda Coplin, a native to Wenatchee, Washington and graduate of the University of Oregon takes readers on a journey of a man’s life that is as tangled as an overgrown apple tree. You will find yourself caught up with the complexities of his emotions, his need to care for his trees and his new-found family while actually picking up some Washington State history rarely found in history books. If you are familiar with central Washington during all times of the year and also have some idea of what life was like for the ones who homesteaded not that long ago, you will sink your teeth into this book. But be prepared, as some aspects are hard to digest.
The main character of Coplin’s novel is a quiet man, with the physical scars of surviving smallpox and hiding the emotional scars of being orphaned as a young man and then later the strange disappearance of his sister. Talmadge lives in Peshastin, Washington, a small town in Chelan County during the early 20th century. The railroad has yet to connect the country and change the lives of Washingtonians, but most are content with their life as they know it. Talmadge makes his livelihood carrying for his orchard of apples and apricots while trying to fight his demons from the past. Never married, but never alone with the constant companionship of his friend, Caroline Middey, Talmadge was pleased with growing and selling his apples in town. That was until two young women made their way into his orchard and disrupted his path. Pregnant and escapees from a life worse than death, the women accept Talmadge’s help, but on their own terms. When a baby is born, more lives are lost and the story begins to get knotted, spliced and grafted.
Coplin’s novel captures your attention and holds your heart until you finish the very last page. Not all stories are happy; not all ends are tied up neatly, but that was life on the frontier. Coplin writes with knowledge of a pioneer, not a woman of only 31 years of age. It is apparent she listened to her grandfather as she walked his orchards in Wenatchee. The story never drops your interest as you read how Talmadge strives to protect those closest to him at all costs.
Coplin is currently on her book tour. September 28th, Coplin returns to Wenatchee to make an appearance at the Wenatchee Public Library. On October 17th she will be at Books for all Seasons in Leavenworth.
“The night has made up its mind. It’s we who are too slow, who move in the wake of events already decided for us, who refuse, who are too weak or too simple, or are perhaps, strictly unable to understand---,” The Orchardist