I recently finished reading “The Orchard: A Memoir” by Theresa Weir (Grand Central, 2011) at the recommendation of a friend. I’m so glad that I took her suggestion and delved into this work. At first I had a little bit of trouble connecting with the narrator and the wry voice. At the start, the narrator is living and working in a run down bar. But the story picked up speed fast and sucked me in. It is part love story and part analysis of the agricultural evolution of a family owned apple orchard. The memoir raises some important issues that are on the minds of many today – what impact do chemicals and pesticides play in our food supply?
One of the things I admired so much about this book was how the author gave a gritty, raw honest portrait of herself as a young woman. As a writer who has dabbled in creative non-fiction, I think one of the hardest things to do is look back on a young version of yourself and capture that innocence of the world without being overly sentimental or letting the voice of age and reason interfere. In some ways, we don’t want to acknowledge to ourselves that we were ever that vulnerable. But here, Weir lays it all bare and it is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I imagine this was a difficult book to write, extracting the words sentence by sentence must have been like reopening old wounds to bleed fresh and new. But I’m so glad the author pursued this work, persisted in getting it to the world (the acknowledgements details some of this struggle).