Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Book Review: The Orchard by Krista Lynne Jensen (Whitney Finalist 2013)
Author: Krista Lynne Jensen
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
This book would be rated: PG
Krista Lynne Jensen's The Orchard, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, takes place in and around Alisen Embry's beloved cherry orchard near Glacier National Park in Montana. Alisen (the spelling of whose name made me nuts the entire novel, says the girl with the unconventionally-spelled name) inherited the orchard from her mother, and has poured her heart and soul into keeping it productive and thriving over the last decade, while her father and sisters have squandered the family's fortune and are now on the brink of ruin. Then Derick, the also-unconventionally-name-spelled man Alisen fell in love with four years earlier returns to town to be with his aunt and uncle (who have rented the family home to save money), and a romance Alisen once thought was part of her past becomes central to her life again.
While the story is basically Persuasion, what makes this retelling unique is the fact that Derick introduced Alisen to the Mormon faith during their initial romance, which makes the story particularly compelling for LDS readers, especially since it's the whirlwind of their love and her conversion that cause the family to step in and convince Alisen to break up with Derick. I felt that both Alisen and Derick were interesting, rounded characters, while many of the secondary characters were fairly flat. Persuasion is a prickly novel, and in some ways I wonder if, at twenty-three, Alisen is too young to fill the Anne Elliot role (since Anne is twenty-seven and on the shelf in Persuasion, and twenty-three is still a baby by modern standards). However, Alisen seems wise beyond her years, and I found myself really rooting for Alisen and Derick as the novel went on. My guess is that they will name their children things like Jane and David-- simple, and hard to misspell.