TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO I was outbid on a property not far from here. I was devastated to lose the chance to own a semi-jalopy of a 79-acre farm with a big old Victorian house and barn in apple-orchard country to another would-be buyer. Just last week, as I drove down the road those acres front on to give a lecture, I shuddered when I passed the driveway of the place I almost owned in my city-girl naivete. Shuddered even more violently than usual, that is, because I had just read Theresa Weir’s new memoir, “The Orchard: A Memoir.” I’m offering three of you a chance to win the book that shook me up.
It has all the symbols: an Adam (in her young farmboy husband, Adrian, whom she married after only three months of knowing each other); a garden (OK, not a garden proper but the commercial apple orchard of the family who would become her in-laws); even a snake (well, the worm-like larval stage of the codling moth, the pest with the most potential to destroy an apple crop).
And attack it did.
As they had for decades, the family Theresa found herself in, but not a part of, really, fought back. Besides the back-breaking, all-hours regimen that is farming of any kind, there was also the war on the codling moth, waged on tractors pulling spray tanks whose contents poisoned not just pests and the fruit but the place and its people in the process, and any chance of Theresa becoming part of this tricky exclusionist family who didn’t want her, anyway.
“The Orchard: A Memoir” reads like a novel—but this, among the author’s 20 books, is the one that’s not. As the subtitle states clearly, it’s a memoir, a page-turner of a memoir. Theresa Weir (many of whose novels were written under the name Anne Frasier) is better known in the genres of suspense, thriller, and even paranormal, and so often along the way in “The Orchard” I kept thinking: Can this be true? There are flashbacks to a childhood even more brutal than her harrowing young married life on the farm, and the pace and circumstances are sometimes death-defying.
I won’t spoil the story by telling you what is won and lost in Weir’s book. My own tale of losing the apple orchard has gone nicely, as you know. I am on 2.3 acres, where I can manage the costs, but that relief about money is nothing compared to the thought of what would have become of me living sandwiched among hundreds of sprayed acres, in wall-to-wall orchard country.
I am grateful for the luck of the draw that left me with six old trees (and countless codling moths) on a tiny plot, instead of many on a parcel the cost of which I could not have really understood but would have quickly come to learn.
How to Win ‘The Orchard’
IBOUGHT THREE EXTRA COPIES of “The Orchard: A Memoir” to share with you, and all you have to do to qualify to win is comment below, answering the question:
Is there a book or other inspiration—of any genre, whether memoir or fiction or maybe even a website or magazine or film—that has heightened your awareness of the environment, perhaps unexpectedly the way “The Orchard” did for me?
You can also just say, “Count me in” or “I want to win” or the equivalent, and you’ll be officially entered; I know some of us prefer to keep it simple. Your choice.
I’ll select three winners after entries close at midnight on Sunday, September 25, and notify them by email. Good luck to all.