“At the Edge of the Orchard” by Tracy Chevalier, [New York] : Viking, 
Tracy Chevalier, best known for her novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, is a strong historical fiction writer. Delving into America in the 1800s as land is being settled and explored, Chevalier tells the story of exploration, discovery, and family turmoil through the Goodenoughs.
When James and Sadie Goodenough were encouraged by the rest of the Goodenough clan to venture out into the world, they never intended to end up in the swamps of Ohio. But when their wagon becomes stuck in the muddy, stagnant swampland they decide to claim their patch of land. Little did they know that meeting the terms of their claim would lead to death and turmoil for their entire family.
As the years pass and the Goodenough family works relentlessly to cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim, the seeds of battle are the true yield. Sadie discovers the delights of apple jack and becomes a violent drunk and James dwells in his love of the apples that remind him of his family and life back in Connecticut.
Robert Goodenough has led a life of many paths after leaving the Goodenough land in Ohio. He’s been a Gold Rush miner, a salesman, a rancher, and traveled all over the country doing it. Successfully putting this childhood in Ohio behind him, Robert finds himself in California following the stories surrounding the largest trees anyone’s ever seen. Very much a tree man, like his father, he stumbles into the perfect job, seeking and gathering seedlings and nuts to send to England. But it isn’t possible to run from the past forever.
“At the Edge of the Orchard” is an interesting mesh of writing styles, weaving third person narratives from the Goodenough orchard with letters written to and from Robert Goodenough as the years of his life pass and eventually settling into the narrative of Robert’s life in California when the past he’s running from is revealed. This is the story of family and how split-second decisions can have massive consequences and trees are just as much of a character as any of the people.
Susana Goldman is the Director of the Alamance County Public Library. She can be reached at (336) 513-4753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.