Monday, March 6, 2017

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton

As the second generation growing up on a Wisconsin apple orchard, Mary Francis Lombard has a contented life full of farming and extended family. She can't imagine a different life, or even one she'd prefer.

The child narrator of this adult fiction novel offers a unique perspective on the family and business of the orchard - she sees the world through a kid-shaped window and often doesn't necessarily understand what she sees and hears. She's precocious and curious about the grown-ups but often believes her own fictions rather than the truth. The adult relationships around her take on a fuzziness; they're less important than the make-believe war between cousins or the wonder of a new teacher.

This is a quiet novel of rich characters and small dramas. There's a lot of family and almost-family at the orchard - it's practically a commune and various relatives share several houses on the farm. There's also a caring, tough female "hired man" who suffers a great and terrible love story.

I loved this book, and since I have friends who own an orchard I understood more than I otherwise might have about the seasonality of the work to be done. The small dramas of the story make for a quiet novel about family and growing up, and an overall excellent read.

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