REVIEW: The Orchard

Book by Theresa Weir

It seems that when it came to intrigue, mystery writer Weir had to look no farther than her own backyard. Weir, who writes bestselling mysteries under the Anne Frasier brand, has this time sourced her own marriage to a handsome but tortured Illinois apple farmer, Adrian Curtis. It’s Jane Eyre meets Green Acres, a stunning memoir with page-turner pace.

The young couple met one day while she was waitressing at her uncle’s bar. They fell in love and were quickly married. Everyone disapproved—especially his domineering mother. As local tongues wagged, they tucked away in the tiny hired man’s house on the Curtis family farm and scratched out a life together. Weir lasted one brief morning working on the Curtis farm before she was fired. So she pulled out her pawnshop typewriter and started to pen mysteries. That single act of creative independence grants Weir the courage she needs to bolster her marriage and salvage her battered self-esteem. She might be living under someone else’s roof—and cruelly excluded from family meals—but she remains undaunted.

This marvellously Gothic book swivels between Weir’s unhappy childhood and life on the claustrophobic apple farm. The air is heavy with pesticides and family tension: the Curtises are intent on producing perfect fruit—no matter what the consequences. While hubby works from dawn to dusk, Weir pounds out her mysteries and raises their two children. There is no escape from farm servitude since family loyalty is primary. The beleaguered couple is even forbidden to move, as Adrian’s rightful place is on the family farm.

The memoir is a gripping account of divided loyalties, the real cost of farming and the shattered people on the front lines. Not since Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres has there been so enrapturing a family drama percolating out from the back forty.