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  • Location: Ohio "Black Swamp" , California

At the Edge of the Orchard

At the Edge of the Orchard

Why a Booktrail?

1838: What happens when you can’t run any further from your past?

  • ISBN: 978-0007350391
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

Ohio, 1838.

James and Sadie Goodenough have settled in the Black Swamp of Ohio where they plant apple trees and claim the land as their own. Life however is hard in the swamp and whilst James patiently grows his sweet-tasting ‘eaters’ while Sadie gets drunk on applejack. Their fighting and the subsequent consequences will resonate across the years.

Fifteen years later, their son Robert has fled from his broken family and is now drifting through Gold Rush California.  But the past seems determined not to have left him behind completely, and he is forced to face up to why he left and what that meant.

Travel Guide

19th century Ohio is a dark and damp place – home to the settlement they call Black Swamp and the place the Goodenough family hopes to create some roots. The land is damp and mosquito-ridden but the Goodenoughs (apt name?) make do as best they can. They are pioneers after all and James is devoted to his sweet apples.

Apple Cultivation

Apple cultivation is evoked with every last drop tasted on your tongue as you read. Sadie prefers the applejack which is strong cider made from spitter apples which you cab’t eat. The various kinds of trees in the order, the process of apple cultivation and the daily strains of working in an orchard of this size is evoked with detail right down to the mud, the smell of the apples and the taste.

Pioneer Life

Life in the swamp settlement is harsh in other ways. Swamp Fever is rife and James heartbreakingly describes how he has to dig the graves before the undergrowth becomes too dense. Five of their children have died and those who did survive are a rather mixed bag – life as a pioneer family didn’t leave much room for family unity or development. Sadie  is not often at home for as well as the cider, she likes to ‘mingle’ with other men at the revivalist meetings nearby

It’s Robert however who has escaped to a better life and who is now working his way across America as a miner and logger amongst other things. He then finds work with William Lobb who is a plant collector and discovers that working with him allows him to reminisce about his past and the apple orchards he left behind. Lobb was a real life historical figure as was Johnny Appleseed who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois

American settler life, collecting plants and seeds to ship back to the gardens of the rich in other countries around the world, the constant need to keep moving, keep living off the land always in the search for the next opportunity.

Booktrailer Review

Clare: @thebooktrailer

There’s something very reassuring and calming about Tracy Chevalier’s writing. She has a unique style and passion for what she writes about and you can tell she’s really researched her subject well for even simple details are evoked as if she’s sat at the table in the cabin with these people observing them.

She takes you this time to Black Swamp – a real swamp which covered a great deal of Ohio and describes those living in and near it. The hardship, the lifestyle of the pioneers (Especially Sadie and James in the novel) and the roles of men and women.

This book immerses you into the dark damp swamp into the trails and tribulations of life on the land, life as a pioneer and at the time of the gold rush in California. This is such an evocative read and it makes you one of the characters as each page is crafted to add another dimension to your experience. These are people you’ll care about and a stunning visual journey of agriculture, landscape and people’s relationships to it.


Booktrail Boarding Pass Information:

Twitter: @Tracy_Chevalier

Facebook: /tracychevalierwriter

Web: tchevalier.com

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