Middle-aged Talmadge is a solitary type. He’s been alone on his sprawling orchard in the Pacific Northwest since he was a teenager and his younger sister vanished…run off or kidnapped, it was never clear. Every once in a while, a band of Nez Perce horse traders camps on his land and helps with the fruit picking, and he spends some time with the local midwife, Caroline Middey. But otherwise, Talmadge is alone. When two pregnant teenagers steal some of his fruit from a stand in town, he doesn’t give chase. When the same two girls show up on his land, living in his orchard, he begins cooking extra food and putting it out on the front porch for them. He is beginning to win them over; the girls, feral as cats, are beginning to trust him as they’ve never trusted a man before. But when the man from whom the girls were running shows up to find them, a shocking act of violence will change all of their lives forever.
Set in the early years of the 20th century, there is nevertheless a timeless quality to this novel. Talmadge’s orcharded valley is a haven for him and for the girls alike. Rich, lush descriptions of the natural world and Talmadge’s simple life draw the reader into his world, but Coplin does not sentimentalize. Talmadge’s world is also a hard one, and the girls’ lives have not been easy, nor do they get any easier. Captivating and eloquent.