Published: September 21, 2011
Source: Personal Copy / Kindle (Book Club Selection)
THE ORCHARD is the story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected. Rejected by her husband's family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, even as she falls more deeply in love with her husband, a man she at first hardly knew and the land that has been in his family for generations. She becomes a reluctant player in their attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard, but she and Adrian eventually come to know that their efforts will not only fail but will ultimately take an irreparable toll.
I will admit that I went into the book blind. I had put it on my e-Reader a few months previously, once I knew it would be a selection for my book club. By the time I started reading it, I had forgotten what it was about or even that it was a memoir! It would be very easy to get through half the book (as I did) and not know that it is a memoir as it reads very much like a novel. Once I realized that this was a memoir and not a novel, the book took on an almost chilling quality. At the risk of putting out a spoiler, the reader knows very early on that this book will not have a happy ending.
To be honest, this book is more than a memoir. It is a love story, a family saga and an environmental cautionary tale. I was instantly drawn in by Weir's story and I felt that she did an expert job of measuring the pace of the plot to keep the reader hooked. There are a number of flashbacks in the book, which are also handled very well.
There were a few parts of the book I would have liked Weir to develop a bit more, such as Adrian's relationship with his crazy, and I do mean CRAZY, mother. I also felt that there was a large gap of time that wasn't really addressed. It could have been that not much of note happened during that time, or that delving into those topics could have distracted from Weir's focus in this book. Still, I do think those omissions could have been finessed a bit more so that the reader didn't feel out of the loop.
However, all in all, I found this a very satisfying--and heartbreaking--read. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to those who think that memoirs "aren't for them." For readers who are more accustomed to novels, this may be a good introduction to the world of memoirs.
And I also promise that you will think twice about eating a conventionally grown apple.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for it. All opinions are mine, and mine alone.