"Like Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, Peter Heller has a rare talent that hooks both literary and commercial readers." -Elle magazine
From the bestselling author of The Dog Stars and The River, The Orchard is an unforgettable coming of age tale reminding us that, even during the hardest of times, love, friendship, and the enduring power of nature will prevail.
Hayley and her seven-year-old daughter, Frith, live in a rustic cabin with no electricity in the foothills of Vermont's Green Mountains. One of the world's most renowned translators of poetry from China's Tang dynasty, Hayley walked away from her career and her drug-addicted husband to raise Frith alone in a land populated not by ambition-fueled academics but by hawks, beavers, and other wild thingsincluding their exuberant Bernese mountain mutt, Bear. They get by on what little they earn from their overgrown apple orchard and the syrup they make from their maple trees. Frithprecocious, homeschooled, and a voracious readerconsiders herself queen of this backwoods paradise. She is too young to understand the pain and regret that have followed her mother here.
Season after season, it is the three of themmother, daughter, and doguntil the sunny spring day when Rose Lattimore appears at their door. Rose is an artist and kindred spirit whose unexpected friendship upends Hayley and Frith's solitary existence. Rosie takes the edge off the worries of day-to-day survival and encourages the playful aspects of living in nature: fishing, picnics, swimming in a quarry. Frith thrives under the loving care of Hayley and Rosie and, with a child's innocence, assumes their happiness will last forever. Instead, their lives are shattered by unexpected tragedy and Frith must come to terms with heartbreak and fear.
Peter Heller is unique in his ability to capture the beauty and nuance of the natural world and its pull on women and men. In The Orchard, he pairs evocative storytelling with jewel-like poemsHayley's translations of her most beloved Tang poet, Li Xuethat echo Hayley and Frith's life in the wilderness and tell their own tale of mother and daughter. By turns joyful and searing, The Orchard examines the fragility of childhood, motherhood, romantic love, and friendship, and celebrates the enduring solace of nature. At a time when so many of us are gripped by fear and uncertainty, Heller's story is like a calming deep breath.