The Orchardist

The Orchardist is a book that is at peace with violence as a fact of life closely seated near beauty. The characters face horrific tragedy and the plot revolves around it. The prose is not over-emotional, yet it is pregnant with emotion through the personages, who are like cartoon characters reactions to what they face and the descriptive nature of certain passages. (I sighed over certain passages for the sheer beauty). The plot is strong but it isn’t the sole focus. The focus instead is the people, their inner worlds, their regrets, their private hopes, the truths they face about themselves and one another. Present within the text is a recognition that life is ugly, and that within that horrific lack of beauty is a potential for love that is bounded in the things we face, and the truths we reveal to one another, and what we can withstand. Secrets begin the tale, but it is within those secrets that love is planted. Yet the author maintains distance throughout. Quotation marks are left off all dialogue, creating the sensation that we are remembering the book rather than reading it. Violence, and joy too, is smoothed by the aloofness created by this muffing out of speech. It’s difficult at times to be certain if the characters are speaking now.

Or if we are listening in on their story a hundred years later. This distance from the action creates a faraway texture that intrigues me: violence is refined, buffered. We are made to receive the tale through the characters' memories, through each of their jaded and all-too-human perspectives. In contrast, the descriptive moments are as close as a leaf dripping with dew filling an entire canvas. Life is in the little moments, this says to me. Life is in the beautiful. Contrast is created by the placement of scenes, as well. At one point a joyful campside scene at twilight is contrasted with a scene of violence and a hollowing out of hope that shatters the prior sweetness. It's in those quick contrasts that the author creates her tension and speaks her point: that it’s the butting up of violence against love that births memories, and it’s the memories, the emotions, the love that makes a life. Especially in the middle of the book, chapters come by so quickly the author risks losing her audience as she flicks between characters, perspectives and memories. But she never lost me. Euphoric hope collides with loss which melts into the rebirth of hope. Cathartic.