At the Edge of the Orchard

At the Edge of the Orchard

Downloadable Audiobook - 2016
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From 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.From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Audio,, 2016.
Edition: Unabridged.
ISBN: 9780698411104
Characteristics: 1 online resource (1 sound file (9 hr., 1 min., 24 sec.)) : digital.
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juliarosewaters Nov 19, 2018

I think this could have been shorter. The lonnnnnng descriptions of apples and apple trees grossed me out a little. But it could be that I'm just weird.

SPL_Heather Apr 28, 2016

A full review of this historical fiction set in pioneer era America can be found under "Summary," which was first published in the Stratford Gazette on 28 Apr 2016.

Apr 20, 2016

Ohio's Black Swamp in the 1830s and their son Robert who wanders the American continent during the 1840s and 1850s. Apples -- seeds, trees, fruit, cider, and applejack -- are the themes that tie this book together. John Chapman, the famed Johnny Appleseed, is Sadie's favorite purveyor of applejack which ultimately leads to tragedy for the family. This book is a fascinating look at American pioneer life in all its unvarnished, dirty ways. The ending leaves you wondering if a sequel will be written.


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SPL_Heather Apr 28, 2016

This work of historical fiction follows the story of the Goodenough family as they settle where their wagon wheels got stuck, in the muddy swamps of Ohio. The story begins in 1838 as James desperately tries to cultivate 50 fruit bearing apple trees so that his family can keep the claim on their land. He carefully tends to the orchard, which reminds him of an easier life back in Connecticut. However, his wife Sadie hasn’t adjusted quite so well. The hard pioneer life, deaths of children to the swamp fever, and a lack of spousal appreciation have made Sadie a bitter woman who prefers drinking alcoholic applejack and tormenting her children and husband.

Only the youngest son Robert, born in Ohio, seems built to handle the brutal pioneer life. He alone takes an interest in learning apple tree tending from his father and possesses the ability to understand and cope with his mercurial mother. The story then jumps forward to 1853, where after years of wandering across America, Robert has ended up in the California Gold Rush. There he becomes a plant agent, collecting seeds and saplings to be sent across the ocean to grow in English gardens. An event occurs where Robert’s past catches up with him and he must decide to either keep running or finally settle down and make a home at last.

Tracey Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, crafts a beautiful tale of early pioneer life. The text cleverly shifts from third person narrative telling James’ story to first person with Sadie’s. In this manner, we understand the motivations of both spouses and can understand and pity their tragic current situation. The rich descriptions Chevalier employs allows us to appreciate the beauty and precarity of the pioneer life. She doesn’t romanticize it, but rather, we have a deeper understanding of what real people would have lived through on a day to day basis. The impeccable research and inclusion of real historical figures (including Johnny Appleseed and plant collector William Lobb) enrich the story without ever feeling didactic. The narration in this audiobook is superb. The use of multiple narrators makes for a very enjoyable listening experience, and their mastery of various accents allows the listener to hear multiple characters.

After reading this book, you may feel like you know how to survive in a pioneer environment, or at the very least, have a strong desire to grow your own apple tree.

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