At the edge of the orchard

Tracy Chevalier

Book - 2016

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Historical fiction
New York, New York : Viking [2016]
Physical Description
289 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Tracy Chevalier (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

In 1838, James and Sadie Goodenough leave the relative comforts of Connecticut to strike out on their own, ending up in the swamps of Ohio. Required to plant 50 trees in order to stake a claim, they and their five children work tirelessly to cultivate the land, buying their seedlings from Johnny Appleseed, who tells Sadie how to make applejack, an alcoholic beverage she grows a little too fond of. The backbreaking work and relentless winters take a terrible toll on the couple, who are forever fighting, and after an unfortunate and tragic accident, their youngest child, Robert, takes off for California. There he finds work with a naturalist collecting seeds from the giant sequoia trees, which are then packed and shipped to England. He thoroughly enjoys the work, not least because he learned so much about trees from his father, but memories of his unhappy childhood continue to haunt him. Chevalier (The Last Runaway, 2013) excels at creating a highly accessible read that takes a surprisingly dark look at the brutal conditions of frontier life.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The best-selling Chevalier is the author of seven previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into 39 languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this latest pearl from Chevalier, James and Sadie Goodenough settle in 1838 Ohio with their five children and plant seedlings provided by a man named John Appleseed. James loves the apples, put-upon Sadie loves the applejack, and their marriage founders. Fifteen years later, son Robert escapes his shattered family in California's dense redwood forests. [Page 52]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed) makes a cameo appearance in Chevalier's new historical (following The Last Runaway), but this is not the Disney version of frontier life. James Goodenough has moved his family to northwest Ohio in the 1830s. He is determined to grow apples, as he did in Connecticut, but circumstances have forced the family to live on the edge of the Black Swamp, a bad place for an orchard. In an intriguing twist, in this fractious family it is James's wife, Sadie, who is a belligerent drunk, addicted to hard cider and applejack. This situation can only end in tragedy, and when it does, youngest son Robert heads West while still a child. The story of his adventures alternates between the hardscrabble years in Ohio and his subsequent wanderings, which lead him to California during the Gold Rush, though he finds work prospecting for seeds instead. His benefactor is an eccentric Englishman who collects redwood seeds and seedlings for the estates of his wealthy British patrons. VERDICT With Chevalier's excellent storytelling ability and gift for creating memorable characters, this novel paints a vivid picture of the hard and rough-hewn life of American pioneers on their Westward journey. [See Prepub Alert, 9/14/15.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA [Page 87]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Chevalier may not be able to trump her wildly successful second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, but her eighth outing is a compelling showcase of 19th-century American pioneering spirit in which a family from Connecticut struggles to establish an apple orchard in the swamplands of Ohio. James Goodenough can trace his family and his beloved Golden Pippin apples back to England, though he seeks his own future away from his family's farm. The story of his adventure going west unfolds from his point of view as well as from that of Sadie, his contentious wife, a tough woman with a wild libido and a hankering for applejack. True-life figure John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) plays a role in the Goodenoughs' fortunes, as does British plant collector William Lobb, who becomes a key figure to James and Sadie's youngest son, Robert, when circumstances force him to flee Ohio and make his own life on the West Coast. Against a backdrop of family travails in Ohio and personal revelations in California come intriguing facts about apples, such as their division into "eaters" and "spitters" (used for apple cider and applejack), as well as how American pine trees, redwoods, and Sequoias were painstakingly introduced to England. The author's insightful observations about domestic life and the pull of relationships bring depth to a family story that inevitably comes full circle in a most satisfying way. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Settling in the swamps of early-nineteenth-century Ohio, the Goodenough family establishes an apple orchard that begins a long family battle, and years later, as their youngest son wanders through Gold Rush California, his family's past makes an unexpected appearance.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Settling in the swamps of early 19th-century northwest Ohio, the Goodenough family works relentlessly to establish an apple orchard that reflects respective dreams before their youngest child heads to Gold Rush California to collect seeds for a naturalist. By the best-selling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Settling in the swamps of early-nineteenth-century Ohio, the Goodenough family establish an apple orchard that begins a long family battle, and years later, as their youngest son wanders through Gold Rush California, his family's past makes an unexpectedappearance.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

“With impeccable research and flawless prose, Chevalier perfectly conjures the grandeur of the pristine Wild West . . . and the everyday adventurers—male and female—who were bold enough or foolish enough to be drawn to the unknown. She crafts for us an excellent experience.” —USA TodayFrom internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, a riveting drama of a pioneer family on the American frontier1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. 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. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. 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.  Chevalier tells a fierce, beautifully crafted story in At the Edge of the Orchard, her most graceful and richly imagined work yet.