1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. 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 after making his way alone across the country. Haunted by the broken family he left behind, he finds some solace collecting seeds for a naturalist in the redwood and giant sequoia groves. 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.
Here's a quick rundown of what I liked:
1. There are 2 sections (out of 6) that are strictly letters. I thought that was particularly effective.
2. A little over half-way through the book, I actually wanted to read ahead. That rarely happens.
3. The writing is very good. I will give you just 1 example (I know you are all thanking me right now!): "The words cut through the air like a knife through meat - resistant, and then gliding effortlessly."
4. As soon as I finished Orchard, I realized that I wanted a sequel. There's probably no better endorsement for a book than that.
5. These definitely felt like real people to me.
6. I actually enjoyed learning a little bit about the different kinds of trees and some of their properties. I realize that this might surprise those of you who know me. I'm not exactly a nature kind of guy. But what can I tell you? She does a good job of making me want to know this stuff.
I would like to thank the person who recommended this book to me...but I have no recollection who that is! If you read this, please identify yourself. I would like to thank you by name!