The Lemon Orchard:
Julia and Roberto, two people from vastly different lives, are able to connect through the pain of losing their children. As they find comfort in each other’s company, Julia becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of what happened to Roberto’s daughter.
The star of this story is the landscape. The seaside lemon orchard in California gets a glowing tribute, especially during the a wildfire and the dusty Santa Ana winds. Maybe it’s just because I’m in the middle of a Louisiana forest in June but I’ve never wanted to be in the ocean more than I do when I’m reading about Julia and her daughter Jenny on the beach.
But there are two relationships that should be the backbone of this book: Julia and Roberto, and Julia and Jenny, but I found both of them lacking in sincerity and authenticity. Their interactions are too blatantly tailored to a predetermined arc rather than true to the way people naturally communicate and get to know each other. A particularly jarring example was during Roberto and Julia’s first meeting, when he presses her to tell him who Jenny is, despite her obvious discomfort and the fact that she’s basically his boss. It seems to me like something that might happen if a story was meticulously planned before characters were fleshed out to act in it. Julia and Roberto’s relationship continued to lag in believability and development until it turned into a chore to read about them. At the same time, the story of Rosa unfolds into a far more interesting plotline and I was tempted to skip the ‘romantic’ parts to find out what happened to her. I was often baffled by a character’s thought process and didn’t really follow a lot of the motivations. In the end, the resolution of Rosa’s disappearance was satisfying, but Julia and Roberto continued to confuse me until the very last page.
If you would like to find out for yourself, you can! Comment on this entry with your email and on Monday I will pick a poster at random and get in touch with them to send a free copy of The Lemon Orchard.