At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Several of my friends (Deana? Liz?) loved this book and, intrigued by the description above, I decided to give it a try and so I slipped into the hazy, dreamlike world of this intriguing debut novel. The writing is beautiful -- as precise and lyrical and spare as the life of the orchardist himself. Dialogue is minimal and quotation marks are not used -- something that can annoy me but somehow, in this novel, seemed right.
It's an odd book that breaks most of the 'rules' for popular fiction -- but then, this is literary fiction. The action is slow and repetitive -- but so is the turning of the earth and the cycle of the seasons. . . The characters' motivations are not clear, neither to us nor to themselves -- but isn't that true of many of us?
Also familiar to me were the eternal round of tasks on a farm; the yearly sameness that can have a ritual beauty transcending tedium.