Friday, May 20, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard

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Published: March 2016 by Penguin Random House

Pages: 289

Genre: historical fiction

Obtained: library

Summary:  Robert Goodenough grew up in the Black Swamp of northwest Ohio.  His father and mother had settled where their wagon got stuck.  His father was determined to have 50 apple trees growing on this land, so he could stake his claim.  His wife did not have the same goal.  When something terrible happens, Robert leaves the Black Swamp and makes his way across the country alone, bringing with him his father's love of trees.  Robert is running away from his past, but it catches up with him at last.

Thoughts:  The book starts out in 1838 with the story of James and Sadie Goodenough and their families.  Just as I was getting into their story and starting to feel a connection with these characters, the story stopped and jumped to letters written from 1840-1856 to the Goodenough family by Robert, the youngest son.  The third chapter was Robert's story after he left the Black Swamp.  I didn't like Robert's character at the beginning of the book, so I was disappointed.  Chapter four went back to 1838 and continued the story of James and Sadie.  At this point I felt better about the book because I had grown to like Robert and understood who everyone was and how the story was jumping to and from different times.  Chapter five is letters that Robert's closest sister wrote to him from 1844-1856.  Chapter six goes back to Robert's story in 1856.  By the end, everything is connected.
     This book pulls a lot together which kept my attention.  There is the story of the Goodenough family, but also thrown in are "real" people from history- John Appleseed, William Lobb, and Billie and Nancy Lapham.  I really enjoyed how the author used people from history in her story in a believable way.  There is also the gold rush in California, the Black Swamp, Calaveras Grove (giant sequoias), the redwood forests of California, what it was like to be a botanist in the 1800's, and apples (especially the Pitmaston Pineapple).  The settings change, but are all interesting places and the author does a terrific job of making you feel like you are there. The writing style is easy to follow and clear which helps the story to have a good flow. 
     I believe the weakness of this book is that it takes a long time to get to know the characters, but by the end, the author did accomplish this.  The characters do have their own voices, but the book concentrates so much on settings and history that character development is not at the forefront.  I ended up really enjoying this book once I got to know the characters.  Also, major topics of this book are trees, plants, apples and family relationships.  If you don't like these things, this book is not for you.    


Company: Tea Forte                                               

Tea: Tupelo Honey Fig

Obtained: gift


   Tupelo Honey Fig tea, from Tea Forte, is a white tea.  It is described on the tin as follows: This tea was "inspired by a New England garden of fragrant herbs and summer ripe fruit....."  "A summer medley of organic rare white tea, delicious sweet figs and the taste of tupelo honey.  Cooling peppermint and sunny citrus join in perfect harmony for a most fragrant cup."
     The tea was packaged in a good quality tin with an appealing label.  When I opened the tin, there was the scent of sweet citrus and herbs.  It reminded me of an herbal shop or an herb garden.  The tea leaves were olive green and brown and were all shapes and sizes.  There were chunks of dried fruit and fennel seeds mixed in.
     I poured 16 ounces of water over 2 teaspoons of tea leaves and let it brew for five minutes.  The liquid was a bright yellow.  (The liquid is really a little brighter than in the picture.)  The scent of the leaves was of sweet citrus and herbs.  The taste was more of a citrus / mint with herbs in the background.  The fennel stood out at the end, but was not overpowering.
     This was an enjoyable cup of tea.  I have had some teas from Tea Forte in the past, and most have been just okay.  This one is my favorite from Tea Forte so far.  It is perfect for sitting down to relax with a good book.

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