Title: The Orchard House
Author: Heidi Chiavaroli
Genre: Time Slip/Dual Timeline
Publishing Date: Feb 9, 2021
Publisher: Tyndale House
Length: 432 Pages
About the Book:
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.
Once again Heidi Chiavaroli has proven herself as to why she is on my must-read favorite authors list. Not only that, but this one has weaseled its way up to becoming my new favorite of hers.
For those who love story–whether that’s through reading, writing, or both–you will GET this book, with no explanations necessary. There’s a reason why books are referred to as authors’ “book babies”. Whether the stories are fictional or not, there is always a piece of the writer found within the pages. Writing is vulnerable. It’s a way to release parts of yourself you may or may not even know existed. It can be both painful and healing. As a reader, you probably have not only heard the term “I have nonfictional feelings for fictional characters”, but you have a deep understanding of the reality of it. When you step inside the world of characters, their lives somehow end up interwoven into your own. Where your world ends and theirs begins often finds itself fading into absence. Stories are more than just words on a page, but they become a part of you. It was interesting to see an author write a story about an author who thinks through how she became an author and why. I have no doubt in my mind that there’s some real truth woven into the fiction there.
Heidi Chiavaroli is known for tackling impossible topics in powerful ways that both challenge and stretch your empathy. This one is no exception. My heart was taken on an intense ride through the insecurities of adoption and the physical and emotional scars of domestic abuse. The characters and their stories were so well developed that they all felt like real people–not just the historical Louisa May Alcott. A well written story is never long enough, and even though this one was over 400 pages long, I wasn’t ready to let the characters go in the end. The author also did an incredible job of planting the seeds of faith throughout the narrative, concluding with a message that points the reader to Christ in a way that tugs at their heart in a tangible way without feeling forced or cheesy. It’s absolutely Christian Fiction done right.
Sometimes the timing of reading a book can be so perfect it’s as if God orchestrated it just for you. I could relate to more in this book than I’d like to admit. Although I still would have loved this read if I’d opened it up 6 months or a year ago, my attitude and reaction would have been vastly different from now. There were words I needed to hear, but 6 months ago I wasn’t ready or able to process yet, and a year ago I would have grasped some of it but I was oblivious to the rest. God knew the timing of when I would need this story, and I am more thankful for that than words can express.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s the 2021 bookish hug us avid readers and writers could all use. For some it can also be a real help in difficult circumstances. I guarantee this one will find its way on my favorite reads list for the year. Nothing short of masterful.
*I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.