Miriam Tuliao, assistant director of branch collection development, New York Public Library, loves Theresa Weir’s The Orchard: A Memoir (Grand Central).
What We Said:
Eerie and atmospheric, this is an indie movie in print. You’ll read and read to see where it is going, although it’s clear early on that the future is not going to be kind to anyone involved. Weir’s story is more proof that only love can break your heart.
What She Says:
With 19 novels under her belt, Theresa Weir (aka Anne Frasier) is a grand master of genre fiction. She has achieved a cultlike status, growing the community of readers for mystery, suspense, thriller, romantic suspense, and paranormal fiction since 1988. In The Orchard: A Memoir, Weir embarks on a uniquely challenging venture, revisit[ing] that dark place, chronicling her past.
While reading this extraordinarily moving memoir, I kept remembering the last two lines of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem Kathe Kollwitz (What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?/ The world would split open), for Weir proffers a worldview that is at once eloquent, sincere, and searing.
When all ties with her melodramatic and mercurial mother are cut, Weir, at the ripe age of 21, moves to “smack dab in the middle of bleak, Henderson County, IL, to live and work for her entrepreneurial Uncle Jim, who owns a bar and has two side businesses selling Avon and renting 35mm porn. As a bartender-in-training, Weir learns to adapt (My future was a bell and the people who walked through the door) and relies on the generosity of strangers: When I unlocked the front door and flipped on the OPEN sign, I always swore I wouldn’t drink that day. But somebody usually ended up buying me a beer. And another.
But everything shifts one day when Adrian Curtis, a young man rumored to have a cursed farm, walks in for a beer. He was the most handsome farmer I’d ever seen in my life, with light curls, a square jaw, bleached brows over eyes as blue as a Billie Holiday song. I planned to treat him the same as any other customer, but it would be hard.
Refreshingly, Adrian is the yin to her yang. A fifth generation farmer, Adrian leads a Norman Rockwell life, valuing his heritage and history (This is how we live. This is how we do things. It’s how we’ve always done things) while Weir, unconventional and a nonconformist, lacks history (My entire life had been about moving, leaving) and family ties (My mother didn’t think of me as her daughter, but rather a person who’d had a hand in ruining her life). After a brief courtship and much to the chagrin of their families, the two decide to marry.
Despite a bumpy start, the young couple eagerly attempts to cultivate their love and develop their life on the farm, sharing a mutual respect for nature, art, and creativity. However, time is not linear; it’s thematic. I would live‚Ä¶[with] an acute awareness of human fragility and the knowledge that, consciously or subconsciously, we are all at the mercy of our fears, and we are all waiting to die, Weir writes. While carefully depicting the sweet ache of nature on the Curtis family farm, Weir poignantly and unexpectedly captures Eden’s fall.
Miriam’s Favorite Passage:They talked about wedding things, and babies and baby showers. Ruth explained to them that I hadn’t registered my pattern yet, but I would soon.My pattern?I wanted to say that my pattern was Kmart melamine with a little pawnshop thrown in, but I was pretty sure nobody would think it funny. This was serious married stuff, serious homemaker stuff. You didn’t joke about that.