by tara austen weaver
Published by Ballantine Books
on March 24th 2015
For fans of Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving memoir of rediscovering, reinventing, and reconnecting, as an estranged mother and daughter come together to revive a long-abandoned garden and ultimately their relationship and themselves.
Peeling paint, stained floors, vined-over windows, a neglected and wild garden—Tara Austen Weaver can’t get the Seattle real-estate listing out of her head. Any sane person would’ve seen the abandoned property for what it was: a ramshackle half-acre filled with dead grass, blackberry vines, and trouble. But Tara sees potential and promise—not only for the edible bounty the garden could yield for her family, but for the personal renewal she and her mother might reap along the way.
So begins Orchard House, a story of rehabilitation and cultivation—of land and soul. Through bleak winters, springs that sputter with rain and cold, golden days of summer, and autumns full of apples, pears, and pumpkins, this evocative memoir recounts the Weavers’ trials and triumphs, detailing what grew and what didn’t, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned. Inexorably, as mother and daughter tend this wild patch and the fruits of their labor begin to flourish, green shoots of hope emerge from the darkness of their past.
For everyone who has ever planted something that they wished would survive—or tried to mend something that seemed forever broken—Orchard House is a tale of healing and growth set in a most unlikely place.
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Back when I was a kid, I would occasionally (read – often) steal my grandmother’s romances and read them under the covers at night. A bad habit to be sure (kids, listen to your parents!) but at the time, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me to read them! I do now. Why am I telling you this?
Well, one time, I read one of those romances and it was about a woman who bought old homes and renovated them to sale (and yeah, I think she wound up in love with a contractor and they did the YOU KNOW WHAT all over one of those houses and then fought and broke up then made up and then lived happily ever after the end.) (12-year-old me says “blush.”). Something about that touched the romantic and ambitious part of me. It sounded so fantastic! To buy an old home, rip out all the rot, the ugly, the unwanted, and make it warm, cozy, and a home again. And the garden. My dream garden, with flowers and vegetables and fruit, everywhere. It sounded terribly awesome.
I decided that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. Refurb houses, not read romances. Because ick.
Flash forward 25 years (or so) and that is definitely not what I am doing. And yet, I still find it a romantic thing to do. I moon over old houses in our area. I love looking at books, magazines, and websites about decorating. And someday, I will take a house and make it my own, although probably not an old one. Oh well.
So, when I saw this memoir, I knew I had to read it. And it’s why I loved so much. Tara Austen Weaver finds just such a house, with “peeling paint, stained floors, vined-over windows, a neglected and wild garden…” just what she (and I) can see so much potential in. She convinces her mother to come to Seattle and they start planning.
This book. Wow, this book. It sounds sappy to say it “touched my heart” but it honestly did and dude, you know I’m a cynic. I did not have a relationship with my mother, but I did with my grandmother and in many ways, the relationship between Tara and her mother reminds me of the one I had with her. We were so much alike and so very contentious. And part of the beauty of this book is seeing how these two souls manage to love and work together, despite their ways.
And the food. Oh the descriptions of food. And the garden. I read this when it was too early to get out in the garden, but I was dying to do so while reading it. I even mentioned starting an orchard on the land we’re going to build on eventually, so perhaps we’d have fruit by the time we moved and my husband said yes! Color me delighted.
All in all, if you love foodie, gardening, mother/daughter relationship, family relationship, etc, type books, I can’t see why you wouldn’t love this book as much as me. Highly recommended.