Tuesday, July 12, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

I never come away from a Chevalier novel without knowing I have gained something. Sometimes that "something" is a wonderful bit of fiction, but often, it also is that more elusive classroom of life, where I have learned a bit more about the subject of which she's written. It can be painting a masterpiece, weaving one of my favorite medieval tapestries, finding fossils, or as in this book, more about trees and our nation's history in the early to mid 1800's. The story starts in the swamps of northwest Ohio (okay, I admit it. I didn't know there were swamps there) with the somewhat hapless and luckless Goodenough family, who are, indeed, good enough to make a mess of things, including planting the orchard that would allow them to claim ownership of their land. (Now that decree I did know about: to claim a sake of farmland, there needed to be 50 trees planted as an orchard in 3 years of settling, to show you were really serious about farming the land.) The story bounces back and forth between James and Sadie, sometimes sideswiping their surviving children, and then moves to follow the youngest, Robert, as he travels west. (The day Robert first saw the giant sequoias of California was the day I also discovered old family pictures from 1962 when my own family discovered them as well.)

Chevalier has woven two actual figures into the novel, both of whom have crossed my interest radar in the past: John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) and William Lobb, each of whom helped transport trees (actually seeds, seedlings, and saplings) from their natural environment to new ones, often miles and growing zones away.  Fascinating stuff, how we changed our world through plants. And because that fascinates me, the story built around it interested me, too.

Tags: 2016-read, an-author-i-read, made-me-look-something-up, read,  taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library

1 comment:

  1. It sounds interesting. I've only read 3 or 4 of her novels, and enjoyed every one. When I started reading this review, I wondered if Johnny Appleseed would appear in this book.