At The Edge of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Fans of historical fiction I hope you are acquainted with author Tracy Chevalier. Perhaps best known for Girl With a Pearl Earring, Chevalier has gone on to pen other gems such as Remarkable Creatures and The Last Runaway. Her latest work, At the Edge of the Orchard, fit nicely into many of the areas I am particularly interested in: botany, trees, frontier life, the extraordinary feats of scientists and human relationships.
At the Edge of the Orchard contains two stories in one: initially we meet fictional characters Sadie and James Goodenough, a pioneer couple from Connecticut settling in the muddy stagnant black swamp of northwest Ohio in 1838. They could go no further west as their wagon was stuck in the mud. Along with their five children they fight for survival as they struggle to build an apple orchard on the edge of the swamp. James’ love of apples far outweighs his love of Sadie and this will ultimately determine the course of their relationship. Historical figure John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, makes brief appearances as he peddles his apple tree seedlings from a canoe up and down Ohio rivers.
Robert Goodenough, the youngest child of James and Sadie, strikes out on his own after a cataclysmic family event. How he travels to California, meets and works with historical figure William Lobb (responsible for the commercial introduction to England of the massive sequoias from North America) and ultimately comes to peace with his tumultuous past is the meat of this novel. Robert Goodenough is a reluctant protagonist. James and Sadie are passionate, tortured and complex. Chevalier’s character development is as rich and tart and at the same time sweet as a homemade apple pie. When I finished the story
I still wanted another slice of the Goodenough family. For me that is one of the signs of a good book –if I really enjoyed the story I miss the characters I have spent time with on the page.
Blog written by Judy Lemezis
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop