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The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor

The Blue Orchard

by Jackson Taylor

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1167150,307 (3.64)3



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What a tale! I did not always approve or agree with choices made, but it was a good read. I loved the author's notes at the end and commend the labor that it took to bring women's struggles to life. Taylor has the touch. ( )
  Michelle_Wendt | Jun 15, 2016 |
Written by a NY Times journalist, based on the life of his grandmother. Writing style is dry, stilted, like reading a news article. Storyline is interesting--took a while to get into but worth reading. ( )
  cindyb29 | Jan 12, 2015 |
This is a powerful story, set in Pennsylvania during a time of great change and upheaval: the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar period. I found the first half of the book - up to where the story catches up to the Prologue - to be more compelling than the second half. The younger Verna is a more sympathetic character; as she grows older, she becomes hardened and distant from the people in her life as well as the work she does.

Throughout her life, she struggles with bad men: an employer who knocks her up when she is only a young teenager, a beau who only reveals that he is already married once she becomes pregnant, and a husband who loses his job and drinks too much. She manages to obtain training as a nurse, and then works for the respected Dr. Crampton, a pillar of the black community in Harrisburg and part of the political machine. Dr. Crampton performs abortions, and Verna cares for the patients; it is a lucrative operation for them both, but for Verna the primary motivation seems to be financial rather than empathetic (after all, she has been in their situation).

There just seemed to be a disconnect, or a lack of examination of the implication of her work; she recognizes that men are usually in positions of power over women, that they abuse this power, and that they refuse to be responsible or accountable for their actions, and yet she never explicitly connects her recognition of that unfairness to her work helping Dr. Crampton perform illegal abortions. The moral gray area makes her uncomfortable, and she does not come down on one side or the other.

The writing is at times beautiful, and at all times well-researched. The second half of the book seemed more like a string of "and then...and then...," becoming less introspective as the plot steamed forward. Seeing Dr. Crampton's downfall through Verna's eyes is also quite sad. All in all, an absolutely worthwhile book, but it didn't give me shivers.


There is no substitute for character and you never know where you'll find it. I weep at how many deaths we all endure before our own takes us. (109)

"Madame de Stael said: 'Love is only an episode in the life of a man, it is the whole story of the woman.'" (123)

"He who tells even the smallest part of a secret loses his hold on the rest." (140)

"Time moves differently on an unfamiliar path. It seems, in life, we are always being warned not to get lost, and yet it is in the risk of the unknown that you know you're fully alive....suddenly something in you recognizes the landscape. You reach a familiar road and are on your way home again." (Dewey to Verna, 162)

Why do men faced with strong women allow themselves to become children? Is that what women fear when they allow men to lead? (216)

I've always been in awe of Dr. Crampton, but now he has again taught me something new: forgiveness isn't for an offender's benefit, but for my own. And you can't wait around for justice before you forgive. Otherwise it isn't forgiveness. (219-220)

Pop used to say, "Anger is the wind that blows out the light of the mind." (330)

Instead, whatever sobs lie between my heart and my voice go dying....The price of friendship is dear. It can ruin your life. (341)

When I was a child, loss was like an autumn leaf being carried downstream. I thought if one could just run swiftly enough, losses could be regained. As I matured the stream widened, the current grew stronger....by the time I became an adult, I found that loss grew into a powerful, wide river; deep, swift, muddy, it swept away my past, my youth, and left me with a child that couldn't yet swim. Then I realized there was no riverbank to climb up to, that what we're swimming in is not a river at all but an enormous gulf along the curve of a continent. I can and must choose either to get swept out to sea by the grief of it all, or to swim for as long as my body can endure. (347)

"He wanted to lead. In the end, I think that's what hurt him so much. He never rightly estimated the loneliness of leadership. How being an example to others never allowed him to be totally at home with them. The burden of authority. He found out, like so many before him, that money and power are only temporary things, and when they go, they don't guarantee that people will stick by you." (C. Sylvester Jackson to Verna at Dr. Crampton's funeral, 351)

I've begun to notice an odd habit in myself. Whenever I talk about people or gossip about their faults, a short while later I notice the same bad qualities in myself....Do we only notice in others what we know to be true within ourselves? (355)

( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is the fictionalized story of the author's grandmother Verna who became wealthy working as a nurse with a doctor performing illegal abortions in the Harrisburg, PA area during the mid-1900s.

I did not find much of anything about this book interesting - the story is repetitive and dull...details of day-to-day activities and a time line that is not easy to follow make for a long read. I often had no idea how much time was passing between 'chapters' and while there is an occasional recognizable historical event, one gap might be a couple days and the next gap might be months or a year.

It does give you a peak into the time period, but focuses so much on daily activities like cooking and cleaning, that it's a real bore. Then it moves on to much more exciting things like politics and money...finally, ending with the author (through Verna) recapping all the moral issues he's already presented through her depression and ponderings. A nice help for a book club, perhaps, since he lays out all the moral dilemmas for you to consider.

In general, the writing seemed sophomoric and more along the lines of a reporter trying to throw a few flowery lines in here and there to become a novelist. While another reviewer finds this sentence poetic: "The pupils of his bloodshot eyes are like two black peppercorns waiting to be cracked.” - I'm pretty sure that would have gotten me an "F" in 9th grade English when we studied similes and came off as quite humorous to me.

Sorry, but the little value I found in learning a bit of local history was largely outweighed by the tedious details throughout and my boredom with the whole thing. I'm sure Taylor enjoyed digging into his family's history, but the presentation of Verna's story just did not keep my interest. ( )
  horomnizon | May 3, 2011 |
This book is based on the author's grandmother. Verna Krone had to leave home in the 8th grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Through sheer force of will she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. Verna's life gets complicated when the doctor she works for is arrested for performing an illegal surgery. ( )
  tanya2009 | Jun 14, 2010 |
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Since my name has appeared in the newspaper following our arrest, my entire moral character is being drawn into question.
"I don't think the world of men. They've always made me suffer." ~Verna Krone
"I think about how I used to lie awake and imagine dressers stuffed with cash, but I could not have guessed the high cost of having my dreams fulfilled." ~Verna Krone
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A tale based on a true story follows the experiences of Irish immigrant Vera Krone, who emerges from poverty to become a nurse only to be wrongly accused of assisting a black doctor with illegal surgeries, a charge that prompts a racially driven court case and media firestorm.… (more)

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