Title: The Orchardist’s Daughter
Author: Karen Viggers
Published: February 2019
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
I received a copy of The Orchardist’s Daughter unsolicited from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and homeschooled on an apple orchard in southeastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.
When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.
Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.
The Orchardist’s Daughter is a deeply atmospheric story that encapsulates what it means to feel like an outsider, and the vulnerabilities that comes with that.
Set in a remote part of Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter follows three characters’ stories – that of nearly-eighteen year old Miki who runs a small local business with a brother that keeps her as a prisoner, of Leon who is a newcomer and a young boy who finds himself being bullied. Their stories and paths cross as each discover their own strength of spirit and resilience in their quest to break free of the bonds holding them to their current-day lives.
I’m always hesitant when picking up fiction books by authors I’m unfamiliar with, especially ones set in Australia, and I’m not entirely sure why that is, because I’ve yet to be disappointed with any books I’ve received that fit this description. The Orchardist’s Daughter was an unsolicited review copy and my fear of the unknown saw me putting off picking it up as a read, but I’m so glad that I did read it.
The atmosphere of the small Tasmanian town where Miki and Leon live was just captivating, as was the relationship between all of the characters. Reading Miki’s story, of her family’s tragedy and her own tragic circumstances, was heartbreaking. She’s such a strong, resilient character caught up in her brother’s machinations, and seeing her come to the realisations that she can do and be more was intensely satisfying to read. Likewise, Leon’s journey of trying to fit in is the story of anyone who has ever experienced feeling like the ‘other’ in a new place (be it town or school or workplace). He’s balancing out a family life that causes him a great deal of angst and concern, while reconnecting with a grandfather he’s had little to do with, and managing being a Parks ranger in a timber town and the scorn that that brings.
The commentary of the town and the people who live there was also fascinating to read, and, at times, concerning, especially when you discover the domestic abuse some of the characters face – that everyone knows about and yet does nothing to prevent. It’s a damning look at what it means to turn a blind eye, and how easily it happens because people don’t want to interfere.
Overall, I was very impressed with The Orchardist’s Daughter and it’s one I’ll be recommending to people for a good while.