The use of heavy pesticides over decades on Midwestern farms forms the dark, moody leitmotiv of this affecting memoir set largely around a 1970s orchard by thriller writer Weir (aka Anne Frasier). As a 21-year-old from a divorced home who grew up in Miami and Albuquerque, with a talent for art but little prospects to educate herself, Weir gravitated toward the Midwest, where she worked as a waitress in her uncle’s bar in Henderson County, Ill., just off the Iowa border; farmers dropped in for beer and a secret stash of porn her uncle kept in the back, their arms dusted with the herbicide they used in the fields. Smitten with young, handsome Adrian Curtis, the scion of a large apple orchard that seemed to be under a curse of bad luck, Weir soon married the serious, reticent young farmer and lived with him in a small cabin on his parents’ farm, although she hadn’t a clue about being a farm wife; moreover, her in-laws despised her as an outsider (“white trash”) and nobody expected her to last long. Nonetheless, the marriage endured happily, two healthy children were born, and Weir improbably managed to start a career as a writer. But then both Adrian and his father were diagnosed with and died from cancer. Afraid of further contaminating themselves, Weir and her two children eventually moved out of the county. Weir, now living in Minneapolis, narrates a truly disquieting tale of familial dislocation and rupture. (Oct.)
The Orchard is a lovely book in all the ways that really matter, one of those rare and wonderful memoirs in which people you've never met become your friends. I read it in a single sitting, lost in the story, and by the time I put it down, I was amazed by Weir's ability to evoke such genuine emotion. Read it: you'll be glad you did.
From the Publisher
A hypnotic tale of place, people, and of Midwestern family roots that run deep, stubbornly hidden, and equally menacing-THE ORCHARD is sublime and enchanting, like a reflecting pool, touch the surface and watch the ripples carry you away.
Jamie Ford, NYT bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
The Orchard is a lovely book in all the ways that really matter, one of those rare and wonderful memoirs in which people you've never met become your friends. I read it in a single sitting, lost in the story, and by the time I put it down, I was amazed by Weir's ability to evoke such genuine emotion. Read it: you'll be glad you did.Nicholas Sparks
A foreboding memoir of the author's early marriage into an agricultural family, and her emotional navigation between rootlessness and heritage.
In a key passage, novelist Weir (as Anne Frasier: Garden of Darkness, 2007, etc.) writes that "in that moment I understood that I'd stepped into a world I could never be a part of." How could a citified woman, whose mother struggled with revolving-door relationships and an itinerant lifestyle, forge an enduring bond with a man whose apple-farming family was governed by appearances? The author dances around questions of belonging and trust as she compresses her outsider beginnings on her husband's land with the years preceding his death, all while alternating between memories of a 1960s childhood. Threaded with abandonments and "[v]ery bad things that I will never talk about," the jagged pastiche reveals a woman whose impetuous decision to marry a man she barely knew led to love, children and the tough realization that generations of pesticide-spraying would destroy her newly reconciled peace. Weir ably captures the stasis of rural life and the pain of difference with acuity, though the impact is diluted when in-laws and other characters emerge as archetypal rather than fully fleshed figures. The author frankly admits to deeply subjective interpretation, however, acknowledging that "[s]ometimes there are people you must forget because of the damage they cause—blood ties or not." Recurrent hints of environmentally dangerous activity never quite develop into a parallel theme, remaining instead as touchstones for a narrative that reaches a crescendo with cancer diagnosis.
The strongest feature of the book is the determined loyalty that allows Weir to discover beauty amid strife, as well as the touching conclusion.
The Boston Globe
...Searing...the past is artfully juxtaposed with the present in this finely wrought work. Its haunting passages will linger long after the last page is turned.
This memoir is viscera encapsulated, of young, passionate love and shattering tragedy around the corner, of a horrible childhood redeemed by motherhood and literary output in secret, of not fitting in until you make everything fit you.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Weir knows how to move a story along, and her memoir is a page turner..."
Equal parts moving love story and environmental warning.
Wisconsin State Journal
"Few books have made the case for shopping organic as eloquently...Her story is a thought-provoking argument against the pesticides used to grow food, but more than that, it's the story of the growth of an unlikely union. 'Love doesn't happen overnight,' Weir writes, and when she concludes the story of her marriage, she leaves readers marveling at the complexities of love."
"A finely wrought story...[Weir's] journey, at times lonely and sad, is ultimately triumphant. Readers will be glad Weir found a home for this brave book..."
The Boston Globe (Pick of the Week)
"...Searing...the past is artfully juxtaposed with the present in this finely wrought work. Its haunting passages will linger long after the last page is turned."
Entertainment Weekly (B+)
"Equal parts moving love story and environmental warning."
Publishers Lunch (one of the Favorite Books of 2011)
"This memoir is viscera encapsulated, of young, passionate love and shattering tragedy around the corner, of a horrible childhood redeemed by motherhood and literary output in secret, of not fitting in until you make everything fit you."