Thursday, July 18, 2013
In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.
Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most. -- Pamela Dorman Books
After having a recent conversation with my friend, I realized that I had never read a novel by Luanne Rice. Needless to say, she was pretty surprised! I figured that I needed to see for myself why Ms. Rice has sold so many novels, so I picked up her latest book THE LEMON ORCHARD. After finishing this book in just a few hours, I can see why she her stories appeal to so many readers.
THE LEMON ORCHARD tells the story of Julia, a middle-aged woman who is still reeling from the loss of her daughter's and husband's deaths. She decides to head to Malibu and house-sit for her aunt and uncle at their lemon orchard and hopefully find some peace of mind. However, when she meets the very attractive Roberto, the (undocumented) overseer of the orchard, she realizes that they have something in common -- the loss of a child.
While Julia's daughter is dead from a tragic accident, Roberto doesn't know what happened to his daughter so he continues to hope that she is still alive. Julia decides to assist Roberto is tracking down what happened to his daughter after they were separated in the desert while trying to enter the United States. As Julia and Roberto work together to find out the truth, they find themselves grower closer, seeking comfort from each other, and possibly even falling in love.
Overall, I enjoyed THE LEMON ORCHARD and I think fans of Ms. Rice's will be thrilled with her latest novel. It is a touching story about two people each trying to recover from a devastating loss, but it's also a story about hope, new beginnings and redemption. While the novel was somewhat outside of my typical reading fare, I definitely appreciated that it made me think!
I am the first to admit that one of the reasons that I hadn't read a book by Ms. Rice is that I considered them to be romance novels. Not to say that I don't occasionally pick up a love story (especially during the summer), but I don't tend to seek them out. And when I started reading THE LEMON ORCHARD, I wasn't entirely sure that this book was for me. I had a feeling that I could predict where the romance aspect of the story was heading, and I almost dreaded that it seemed so predictable.
However, I quickly realized that Ms. Rice is a skilled storyteller and that THE LEMON ORCHARD had much more depth to it than typical love stories. I was impressed with Ms. Rice's character development and dialogue. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the seriousness (and do I daresay, relevance?) of the immigration theme that was so prevalent throughout the story.
I'm sure the love story aspects of THE LEMON ORCHARD were very good, but I'm not the best judge of that -- I'll leave that to readers who enjoy romance novels a little more than I do. What I do feel I can attest to is how well the author presented both sides of the immigration issue in our country. Most importantly, I loved that Ms. Rice humanized the story of individuals trying to find a better place for their families. To her credit, the author didn't shy away from presenting the heartache associated with not only getting into the United States but also living here as an undocumented worker. While I'm not sure this novel provided any answers for me concerning this difficult topic, it did cause me to think and it even allowed me to see multiple sides of this issue... and for that, I am very glad I read it.
Because of the way this book explored immigration issues in our country as well as the complexity of the characters and their actions, I do think THE LEMON ORCHARD would make an interesting book club discussion. There is a reading guide with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include loss, grief, guilt, hope, love, dedication, forgiveness, and redemption. In addition, if you're game, you can also discuss our country's views on immigration and even debate what we should do!
THE LEMON ORCHARD is a touching novel that also addresses some very serious issues. Recommended to fans of romance and women's literature.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE LEMON ORCHARD and a matching tote bag to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 25th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!