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At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy…
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At the Edge of the Orchard (2016)

by Tracy Chevalier

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5734825,682 (3.71)38
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I found this book a disappointing read. I usually very much enjoy this writer's work and all though the focus on historic tree propagation interested me, I never felt any great interest in the characters. ( )
  HelenBaker | Mar 6, 2019 |
I liked this book, but not as much as earlier books I've read by Chevalier. Some reviewers have disliked the founding Goodenough characters James and Sadie who have a bitter destructive marriage, but I've seen some of those in my own family and neighbors. I recognized the oppression and pure drudgery of rural life in a tough environment and how that can twist people. Those characters rang more true to me than the ones in the later half of the book who seemed more stereotypical.

What stood out and appealed to me were the settings. Chevalier lovingly details the Great Black Swamp of northwest Ohio and the redwood/sequoia forests of California. As an Ohioan with relatives who live in both those places, it felt familiar yet strange. (The Ohio swamps have been drained and the land is fertile farm land with not much left in the way of orchards.) As an avid gardener, I appreciated the passages on grafting and caring for fruit trees; the annual rhythms of crops sowed and harvested; and the history of land, plants, and plant hunters.

I also enjoyed the craft of the writing. The first part of the book is written in alternating scenes from the close third person James and first person Sadie. Chevalier bridges a time and character gap with letters from their youngest child Robert who left home and is making his way West. His story is picked up in close third person and interrupted by another series of letters from his sister Martha who fills in her story. Toward the end, Robert's story is again punctuated by his parent's alternating scenes in flashback. It's a clever structure and manages to mask the weaker characterizations of Robert and the other California characters. Altogether this was a satisfying read for me, but folks with less interest in the settings or plants might find it a bit of a slog. ( )
1 vote MarysGirl | May 19, 2018 |
I needed a book that took place before 1900 for this year's book challenge. The proprietor at an Indie bookstore recommended At the Edge of the Orchard. I have read Tracy Chevalier in the past so it was not a hard sell. The story could be raw as apples which kept me turning pages. Chevalier's writing was that good. ( )
  godmotherx5 | Apr 5, 2018 |
I liked this novel but I had loved Tracy Chevalier's other books.
I did enjoy Robert learning about California giant Sequoias. This was a real Chevalier type of writing where we learn about something from real life, from history through one of her characters. I found it hard to enjoy the James and Sadie parts as they were hard characters . Even Johnny Appleseed was weird. ( )
  Smits | Jan 6, 2018 |
Robert Goodenough has learned so much from William Lobb, famed worldwide plant collector that in 1853 he is often sent to travel the Western United States in search of unusual specimens to be sold to other countries in the British realm, such as the giant sequoia. His skill in working with plants came naturally since his family produced an apple orchard in Black Swamp, Ohio, a small community where the pioneer Goodenough family’s wagon became mired during a westward migration from New England in 1838. Although Robert’s parents hoped to have fifty trees but disagreed, often quite vehemently, how the harvest should be used. James wanted “eaters” while Sadie favored “spitters” which used for apple cider and the alcoholic applejack, a product that Sadie was particularly fond becoming quite ornery when she was drunk. During one domestic violent episode, James runs away from the family to find his fortune during the gold rush. The details regarding Robert’s life-changing episode is initially not evident but revealed later in this historical novel.

Tracy Chevalier continues in portray the lives of famous historical characters as viewed from the perspective of her fictional characters. In addition to William Lobb, this novel also includes John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed. Although this novel was enjoyable, I didn’t like it as much as several of Chevalier’s earlier books such as Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels. ( )
  John_Warner | Nov 12, 2017 |
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Epigraph
The juice of Apples likewise, as of pippins, and pearemaines, is of very good use in Melancholicke diseases, helping to procure mirth, and to expel heavinesse.
-John Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, 1629
To the spirit bowed with affliction, or harrowed with cares, a pilgrimage to these shadowy shrines affords most soothing consolation. Behold the evergreen summits of trees that have withstood the storms of more than three thousand years!...While lost in wonder and admiration, the turmoil of earthly strife seems to vanish. -Edward Vischer, The Mammoth Tree Grove, Calaveras County, California, 1862
Go West, young man, and grow up with the country. -- John Babsone Lane Soule, 1851, and Horace Greeley, 1865
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For Claire and Pascale finding their way in the world
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They were fighting over apples again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525953000, Hardcover)

From internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, a riveting drama of a pioneer family on the American frontier

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
 
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
 
Chevalier tells a fierce, beautifully crafted story in At the Edge of the Orchard, her most graceful and richly imagined work yet.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 14 Sep 2015 15:40:14 -0400)

Settling in the swamps of early-nineteenth-century Ohio, the Goodenough family establish an apple orchard that begins a long family battle, and years later, as their youngest son wanders through Gold Rush California, his family's past makes an unexpected appearance.… (more)

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