June 16, 2020

‘The Orchadist’ Book Review

By Carrie

Why the Orchadist Matters

When they sit down to write fictional works, writers often imagine exotic locations that they can populate with interesting characters. Amanda Coplin is not a typical writer. She rejects superficially interesting settings in favor of one that seems boring on the surface. However, as readers dig deeper, they are surprised with an inviting setting that hosts a riveting, moving, and magnetic narrative which is sure to win over even the most stubborn and arrogant of readers. A significant portion of the book is set in an orchard where for years, nothing interesting happened until Coplin became involved.

The Orchadist matters because it tells a deeply human story. At the heart of this novel is Talmadge, a 40-year old man who spends much of his time tending to his orchid. For Talmadge, life is a slow-moving wheel which does not spin anything interesting. It takes two young and pregnant girls fleeing exploitation to introduce some drama and speed into Talmadge’s uneventful life. This book captures the intersection of compassion and brutality, helping readers to recognize that the people who are most broken possess the greatest capacity for love, compassion, and kindness. 

Plot Summary

It has already been pointed out above that Talmadge is the primary character in The Orchadist. In fact, the very title of the book is a description of the work that he does. Before being plunged into the present moment, readers are offered a brief overview of the life of the young Talmadge. When he was only 14, his mother died and as part of his efforts to heal and process the grief, Talmadge surrendered himself fully to the orchid which delivered freedom, peace, and true healing. 

The pace of the story accelerates with the introduction of Jane and Della, a duo of pregnant ladies escaping from a brothel. These girls reminded Talmadge of his sister that he had lost years earlier. He develops a close relationship with the girls and assumes the mandate of caring for them. For example, he would often leave food in his cabin so that the girls were well fed. The kindness that Talmadge demonstrates how pain and loss can be powerful unifiers. 

While Talmadge is the focus of Orchadist, occasionally, he steps aside to let other characters shine through. Among those who shine the brightest is Della, a young girl whose life has been so tragic yet so moving and inspirational. Her life has been defined by violence and victimization. This changes briefly when she experiences some relief during the short time that she spends with Talmadge. 

As readers get excited that Della and Jane have finally found freedom and peace, Coplin awakens them with the revelation that the man who operates the brothel from which they escaped hunts them down. Sadly, Della is captured and is taken to a place that Coplin leaves to the imagination of her readers. As it nears the end, the book surprises readers again with news that Della has emerged. However, her emergence does not augur well for Talmadge who is now in danger. To find out what follows, it is best to read the book. 

Why The Orchadist resonates and sparks interest

The many individuals who have issued glowing reviews after reading The Orchadist serve as evidence that this book is expertly constructed. Among the reasons that these individuals have for endorsing the book is that Coplin reminds them that while blood ties are crucial, they are not essential for the establishment of family. The level of concern, love, and compassion that Talmadge demonstrates in his interactions with Jane and Della make it clear to readers that people who are not necessarily blood relations can form deep and lasting bonds.

The Orchadist is further made popular by the type of characters that help it to develop themes and string the plot together. These characters are rather odd. For example, Talmadge is a 40-year old man who obsesses over an orchid. His unusual spirit works well with the other characters to provide Coplin with a canvas on which she is able to paint a tangled, labyrinthine and elaborate plot that still manages to stay simple.

Detours are a common feature of works of fiction. They enable writers to increase the depth and dimensions of their works. However, when done excessively, the detours can be distracting and could even hurt a story. Coplin understood that detours are risky. This must be why she stayed clear of this technique. Once a story kicks off, she guides her readers carefully to the story’s conclusion. There are no detours which would only be wasteful and reduce The Orchadist to a confusing and bloated mess. 

Colpin’s reluctance to offer moral lessons further enrich The Orchadist and helps to explain why the book has gained wide acceptance and critical acclaim. Coplin does not offer clear solutions to the various questions that the novel raises. For example, she refrains from providing answers concerning whether women should look to men for redemption. Instead, she relies on the interactions among the characters to enable readers to reach their own conclusions and make their own judgements. Simply stated, Coplin respects her readers too much to tell them what to think or how to feel.

The fact that The Orchadist is original and unique make readers love this book even more. While the theme that the book explores are somewhat universal, the characters, and the style that Coplin employs are unique and distinct. Readers will be hard-pressed to find another work that replicates Coplin’s characters and stories. Even while it is unique, the book still manages to be relatable and easy for readers to break down. Basically, through the book, Coplin indicates that even as she feeds her readers an interesting story, she will not intimidate them with a book that is so unique that they are unable to relate to the plot or characters.

As they turn every page, readers should expect to be gripped with anxiety. They will be anxious because every page turn pushes them closer to the end. The Orchadist is just so interesting that it is unfortunate that the book must end at some point. The sense of sadness that readers feel when they put the book down points to the book’s capacity to grip, capture, and captivate. In fact, the book could spoil readers, leaving them unable to thoroughly enjoy any other book. Therefore, readers who are wary of being spoiled must tread carefully and exercise extreme caution. They should be careful not to be drawn into the book’s world such that they are unable to leave.

Final Remarks and Verdict

If unicorns could be books, they would be The Orchadist. A book of this caliber is simply too rare. Those who are fortunate enough to read the book should consider themselves chosen and remarkably blessed. This book provides a raw look into the depths of the human spirit, giving special attention to the pain of loss and the tremendous joy that can be found in caring for others. In addition to receiving four out of five stars, this book gets a resounding nod of approval and those looking to be surprised, frustrated, pushed to tears, and eventually redeemed should particularly read the book.