REVIEW: Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver
A memoir of a garden renewal mixed with the imperfections of family dynamics, ORCHARD HOUSE will touch your heart and encourage your return to the land for your sustenance.
Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver
Category: Garden/Food Memoir
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Avail. March 31, 2015)
Rated 4 out of 5
Formats: Print book read as eBook ARC
Raising two children alone had been difficult for her mother, but Tara Austen Weaver has fond memories as a child when her family moved to the country. Her mother fed Tara and her brother from the many fruits and vegetables she grew, until they had to move back to the city. Years later and miles apart, their mother is once again considering a house with a large garden. Can they undertake this task and grow a garden plus reunite as a family?
Tara’s brother moved to Seattle and started a family. Tara and her mother lived in different cities in California, while Tara traveled for months at a time. With the birth of her brother’s children, grandmother and Aunt Tea-tea are both feeling the pull of those precious babes and their day-to-day growth that they’re both missing.
Can this family let go of what is comfortable and start over without fully alienating the distant relationships they’ve perfected?
Before her mother bids on the property, they sneak back into the garden of the uninhabited home to harvest the blackberries that will go to waste with no one to pick them. Tara’s mother hates waste, especially food, which is probably related to her Jewish heritage. Looking around, they realize that a garden the size of Orchard House is a huge undertaking, one that could bankrupt any spare time with the workload. The house itself is in disrepair with its own set of problems. Should Tara’s mother, who is seventy-two at that time, take on such a life-changing project? Not one to rest on her laurels, she might feel as though she can do the work with some help, but is it wise?
Author Tara Austen Weaver sets the scene by explaining that her family isn’t one who organizes anything together, barely observing birthday celebrations and some holidays. As Tara and her mother pick the blackberries they snuck in to harvest, they begin to discover the treasures under the overgrowth, and that overrun orchard is what convinces her mother to buy the house. Tara is overwhelmed with the project but can’t help but dream of future gatherings in the garden of the future.
What follows are the heartaches and joys of growing a garden amongst a family learning to love one another, each family member with faults that have to be worked through, much like nurturing a long neglected garden. It’s not an easy journey and oftentimes I found myself relating to their personal struggles, even though my childhood was very different. Our commonality is that mine was filled with growing food with several generations, too, so I think that by similarity, all those who love the idea of a garden, whether you have one or not, will relate to the overabundance and the joys it can bring.
As can be with memoirs sometimes, there were some repetitive thoughts and reminiscing with regret that made me wonder if the family would ever find their peace with one another, let alone from within themselves. I think they have and I enjoyed their journey as well as their honesty. Baring your soul and laying out your fears for the world to read has to be a very scary process. My respect to the author and her family for bearing the burden of truth, however painful, and for pushing for that family unity that is so important.
ORCHARD HOUSE is a good example of the revival of a garden and a way of life, while reminding us that you can feed your body and soul in the process. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to garden, loves to eat what you sow with your own hands, as well as those who enjoy sharing the fruits of those labors with family and friends. ORCHARD HOUSE is an encouraging tale that will touch your back-to-basics spirit.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by Ballantine Books through NetGalley.
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