Monday, June 20, 2016

An Early Apple Harvest

If this lush cover doesn't have you rushing out to buy or -better yet - visit an orchard to pick apples for apple butter, pies, and sauce, you will do so after reading Chevalier's intense portrait of apple growers in the 1800's.  My first thought was "How tedious".  That was speculation about the book itself, not about the business of apples.  But, my first bite sealed the deal, so to speak, and I found myself learning about hardship and determination, and the struggle to survive each and every day.  I leaned how easy my life really is.

Often, Tracy Chevalier uses art as the starting point for her work.  Who hasn't read and loved The Girl with a Pearl Earring?  But there is no fine art in this book.  Instead, she writes about the art of apple growing. Yes, there is science to it as well, but James, the surly, abusive orchardist, invests knowledge beyond botany to cultivate the 50 trees he must have on his land in order to be considered a permanent resident of the swampland in Midwest Ohio.  That is where his family wagon got stuck in the mud, and that is where they settled.  

This slow plotted book sure has stuck with me despite the he main characters being totally unlikeable.   In fact, identifying James as the protagonist is questionable since he acts in antagonist ways all too often.  On the other hand, his wife, Sadie, drinks too much hard cider, and has such anger built up that her greatest joy comes from plotting and carrying out attacks on his apple orchard even though doing so will harm her and the children as well as James.  Children die, spouses cheat...there are fights and murders and prostitutes and Johnny Appleseed.  

With him comes news of giant redwoods and the miracle that accompanies coaxing life from humble seeds. Chevalier researched.  Even the story of her research placed at the end of the book is fascinating.  Thank you to my friend, Johanna, for suggesting this book that I never thought I would like.

Oh, I did get one good chuckle when a character commented that a "dead body in a hotel  room isn't good for business."  I expect that is a universal truth.

Thanks for stopping by.