The Orchard by Theresa Weir
In The Orchard, Theresa Weir shares her story from her childhood, a whirlwind courtship, and living life on an apple orchard. It’s a beautiful, haunting story that will draw you in and at times make you forget this is the story of her life.
We first meet Theresa running from a messy and disappointing life, working at her uncle’s bar as a place of last resort. After years of seeing men float in and out of her mother’s life, Theresa doesn’t trust easily. When apple farmer Adrian Curtis takes an interest in her, she doesn’t know what to expect. She is the city girl, he is the country boy, and they come from different worlds.
At first the only thing they have in common is their love of drawing, but their attraction is deep and obsessive; they spend every possible moment together. Within a few months they are married and quickly find out they are still getting to know each other. His family is unwilling to accept her, thinking she’s an outsider and unworthy of their eldest son. His mother is hostile, his father ignores her, and the relationship between Adrian and his parents is a puzzle.
The role of homemaker is thrust upon Theresa, learning to cook and clean and do the things expected of her by Adrian and his family. This was a place where the women relished in being housewives; they did not strive for something else, something different. Theresa soon discovers Adrian is a workaholic and she spends most days alone in their small house. It feels like they are playing house rather than building a real marriage and a life together.
There’s a turning point and Theresa and Adrian begin to make it work. She starts writing, they have children, and she makes this life her own. She learns about how the orchard works, the history, and the generations of Adrian’s family who had worked the land.
We’re shown in flashbacks the childhood she had with her flighty, difficult mother, how Theresa and her brothers lived for moments when their mother was happy, because only then could they be happy, too. We gain a better understanding of how Theresa became the person she is and why she wanted a different life for her family.
Throughout the book there is an underlying story about the chemicals used in farming. The orchard sprayer is the constant sound track of their lives. When important pesticides are banned, the farmers stock up while they are still available in order to prevent the coddling moth from destroying the orchard. At some point they have to ask themselves if their motives are worth it.
I first heard about this book at Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue. The publisher raved about it, so I snagged an advanced reading copy at Book Expo America. The author writes fiction under the name Anne Frasier and it’s clear from this work that she knows how to tell a story.
For me, this book lives up to its big buzz. The story and the people stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.