NFF: At the End of the Orchard

IMG_0523Apples are one of the most popular fruits around the world, abundantly grown in a variety of places and climates. After reading At the End of the Orchard, I know there are basically two types apples (despite the countless varieties): spitters and eaters. Eaters are the sweeter varieties, that are eaten, baked, or are great for applesauce. Spitters are the more bitter varieties that can be used for ciders.  Tracy Chevalier’s story focuses on one family who make their way into the Black Swamp, which covers part of northern Ohio and Indiana, near Lake Erie.  Coming from Conecticut the family 51XJ6LCEAtL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_clears land to start an apple orchard.

James and Sadie Goodenough take their 5 children on this journey in 1838, years before roads would be built, and railroads would be able to take settlers west.  The area is unsettled, rough, and lawless.  It’s a journey that Sadie doesn’t want to take. Life has not been easy for their family, and it only gets harder when they arrive in the swamp. They can’t afford to purchase the land they settle on, and are squatters.  They have to make this work in order to make any kind of claim to the land. And though they have 5 children to care for, and James is completely commited to the land and the family, it seems that Sadie is not, and regularly overindulges in applejack cider.

Things are rough for them, and don’t exactly go well. The second part of the story follows their youngest son, Robert, as he leaves the Black Swamp. He’s relatively young (it’s not clear how old he is – maybe 12 or 13), and travels around the Midwest doing a series of odd jobs, before heading to California as a part of the Gold Rush. He is untethered, and travels around the region.  He starts working for a man named Mr. Lobb. It’s through him that he gets back in touch with “his roots”.  Mr. Lobb is a tree harvester – sending tree samples like the giant California Sequoia to England, to be grown in some of the extravagant gardens of the wealthy.  Through this, he is finally able to understand his father’s connection to the land.

This is the best book I’ve read all summer. It was so good (and so short) that I gobbled it up in one day. Granted, that day I was riding in a car on the way back from our vacation in Florida. Through this book, I was able to learn more about apples than I ever thought I would. And I actually found it so interesting. I rarely read historical fiction, but this had a lot of history, and I actually loved that too.  Chevalier is also the author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which is equally great.

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26 BOOKS IN 2016

41Uj-zvlg4L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_It’s time for everyone to back to school around here.  I feel like Virginia is one of the latest states fore kids to go back to school, most kids around the country have already gone back.  My daughter starts the day after Labor Day.  She will be starting kindergarten next week and I already have tissue boxes at the ready.  In the last weeks of summer I have read quite a few books, which has been really nice.  Though I’m excited for her to start school, I went back to school last week.

When I started going through this list, I thought it would be easy to get through these 26 books, but the last time I checked 61WbO+8dv0L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_I had only read 9.  I had some work to do.  Since my last check in, I’ve been able to mark these categories off:

A book about siblings – Eligible Curtis Sittenfeld

A book I’ve been meaning to read – Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff

A book I read with a friend – Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton

51seefazA9L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_A book based on a true story – The Monopolists  Mary Pilon

A favorite book from my childhood – Charlotte’s Web E. B. White

It’s not too late to join this challenge – or find another one like it.  I still have quite a few books more to go – and only four more months to get through the list!  If you have kids headed off to school soon, you just may have a little extra free time.  Or, with weather changing soon, you may be spending more time indoors.  What better time to read! Have fun and happy reading!!