Tracy Chevalier's Sweet and Sour New Novel 'At The Edge of The Orchard'

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Best-selling author and Oberlin College graduate Tracy Chevalier makes a return to Northeast Ohio this week to share the sweet and sour story found in the pages of her acclaimed new novel At The Edge of the Orchard.  The orchard in question is a 19th-century apple orchard in Northwest Ohio in The Black Swamp, belonging to the Goodenough family. 

The drama at the start of the book centers on which kind of apples the family should grow on their land: 'eaters' or 'spitters.'  Unlike the sweet and tasty 'eaters' preferred by James Goodenough, 'spitters' were sour and best used for Sadie Goodenough's beverage of choice - applejack - an alcoholic cider.

"I had this vision of a pioneer couple arguing about apples.  One wanting sweet apples to eat and the other wanting to grow sour apples to drink.  That was the genesis of At The Edge of the Orchard," Chevalier said.

The debate between husband and wife turns violent leading their youngest child Robert to run away from Ohio and begin a new life in California during the days of the Gold Rush.  It's here that the story climbs another tree - the giant redwood sequoia in California.  Chevalier who lives in London, discovered these American trees also exist on the English/Wales border.

"They don't exactly flourish but they do grow.  You see them in estates like where Downton Abbey was filmed.  I bet you there's a sequoia there somewhere and some redwoods.  That's just the sort of place, somebody really wealthy with a lot of land," Chevalier said.

The book links the Ohio apple tree to the California redwood through the fictional characters in the book.

"I wanted to close the circle because apple trees came from England and ended up in the United States.  California trees went back and closed the circle and ended up in England.  You get this commerce of trees just the way you get the immigration of people back and forth."

Tracy Chevalier appears at the Hudson Library Wednesday, February 1 at 7 p.m.

Listen to Dan Polletta's interview with Tracy Chevalier Monday, January 30 at 1:40pm on 90.3 WCPN for Here and Now featuring The Sound of Applause.

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