At the turn of the twentieth century, silence reflected strength and depth of character, not a need for psychotherapy. The westward movement had yet to establish sunny beaches and Hollywood royalty. Homesteading drew seekers of independent fulfillment and freedom. Isolation proved harsh.
Amanda Coplin's debut novel, "The Orchardist" articulates these western realities with grace and heart-wrenching accuracy. She creates a physical world populated with fully formed characters, beginning with its young orchardist, Talmadge.
Talmadge embodies the best of the west: a strong work-ethic; an ability to rise above hardship; a gruff tenderness so deep he offers himself fully to the family he gathers around himself.
This family is not organized around blood ties. Talmadge, both savior and saved, draws meaning from the dependency of his disparate collection:
- Two young, pregnant girls who escape to his expansive orchard, running from a perversion named Mickelson.
- The town healer.
- A herd of horse rustlers who train stolen goods on his expansive property in exchange for tending to orchard needs.
- The girl, birthed in his cabin: the child of his heart.
Coplin, raised herself within the context of a grandfather's orchard, must draw on this experience, for she paints deliberate words upon the Pacific Northwest canvas with tenderness and chilling directness born of experience and understanding.
Her colors are those of nature, her brightness, the juice of apricots. A blue gingham dress startles amid brown tree trunks and steel bars.
Readers harken back to Steinbeck and his unemotional, profound prose. Of Willa Cather, whose plainspoken novels opened an unusual door to Nebraska frontier living. One feels as if one is floating a sea of greatness, as Coplin's story unfolds.
Such softly spoken fiction, such subtle textures- a rare feast in contemporary markets- remain long after each paragraph is consumed.