This is a beautifully written book, an incandesant lamentation and exultation of the loneliness and deep contentment of solitude. The author tells us, “…sorrow came from these two feelings, the happines of company, the anxiety of interrupted solitude.” Each finely developed character in this thought provoking book experiences this conflict and one senses that the author, glimpsed through her characters, might also. A writers life I imagine is in many ways a solitary one. Amanda Coplin spent eight years writing this book. You sense in her characters the strength Coplin sees in solitude, the beauty and the sorrow of it, but mostly the strength and power one can derive from it.
Human relationships in this book are a bit trickier, offerring love, comfort and company, but also pain, loss and grief. They disrupt the peace of solitude. She sees this in the bonds of parental figures and their children, “..and that was the point of children: to bind us to the earth and to the present, to distract us from death. A distraction dressed as a blessing: but dressed so well and so truly, that it became a blessing. Or maybe it was the other way around: a blessing first, before a distraction
Human relationships are a distraction. Complicated.
I think Coplin is onto to something. The book takes place at the turn of the twentieth century, when maybe people were more at ease with a solitary life. There were homesteaders by the thousands making their way on their own. Today a solitary life is often viewed with suspiscion. Coplin encourages us to contemplate the potential error of this thinking.
Talmadge the main character is a man who is rooted, comfortable and committed to his land, his orchard. He is an orchardist. But he is also a haunted man, seemingly ever in pursuit of the obscure objects of his conflicted desire, the missing fully intimate connection in his life with another person. Although he is a profoundly decent and caring man, he seems very alone always. Yet what makes this book so interesting, is that the author constantly is drawing the readers attention to the spare beauty of this almost existential aloneness. She doesn’t blame her characters for their reserve, their distancing, she seems to admire them for the strength it takes to face solitude.
And so did I. She is a remarkably talented writer. She weaves a spell of the fragile beauty of nature, of the orchard, of the seasons, the pull of people to their land and to each other.This is a beautiful book. Complex. Dense. Worthy of contemplation and Coplin is a stunningly talented writer. I wonder what she is writing now? It will be worth waiting another eight years to find out.