Description: It has been five years since Julia visited her aunt and uncle’s lemon orchard in Malibu and in that time Julia’s world has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. When Julia arrives to housesit, she finds their home and the grove are just as breathtaking as she remembered. A virtual hermit, Julia expects to pass her time in Malibu quietly, with her dog Bonnie as her sole companion, but before long, she finds herself powerfully drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard.
Roberto appreciates his job at the grove—it is good, steady work that allows him to support his father in California, as well as his extended family back in Mexico. He expertly tends the orchard but his obsession for his daughter who was lost during their crossing from Mexico preys upon his mind. Consumed by the weight of a terrible secret, Roberto finds a confidant in Julia—this small, pale woman with silver hair and arresting blue eyes—haunted by her own heartbreaking past.
Set in the sea-and-citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica mountains, THE LEMON ORCHARD is an engrossing story about loss, rupture, and the fragility of our lives, but even more it is a tale about picking up the pieces, and the strength of love when we are most vulnerable.
REVIEW: The Lemon Orchard is the first book I read by Luanne Rice and it will not be the last. This story is fascinating, a story that we see reflected in the lives and faces of so many immigrants that travel around the world or just across the border in search of a better life.
The Lemon Orchard is the story of Roberto & Julia, both characters touched by tragedy in different ways but both suffered great loss. For Roberto life was always difficult, born and raised in a poor town in the south of Puebla Mexico, worked since childhood and slaved to poverty. Like for many immigrants, his decision for traveling to the United States was based on desperation and the need to help his family and provide for his daughter Rosa. Roberto’s life is a tragedy on its own, his childhood marred by poverty, unable to attend school because his responsibilities grew with him. His childhood marked, and his path already set by a destiny he had very little or no control over it. Roberto’s story is one that can rip your heart apart and make it whole all at the same time. The author did a superb job when exposing his feelings and emotions, his tragedy, his pain, his agony and his love.
Julia, what an amazing character. Her tragedy felt just as deep as that of Roberto even when it was quite different, yet it was no less great. Julie is the kind of soul we also come across but the kind of person who we don’t see or find often. Julie was loved since childhood, privilege and full of life, as an adult she married and became a mother, though her life wasn’t always an example of happiness, she made sure she gave her heart and soul to her family. Julia’s life took a turn for the worse when her daughter Jenny passed, her grief and pain for her daughter’s death brought tears to my eyes. Years later she finds herself visiting her uncle in the heals of Malibu, she was house sitting while her uncle travel throughout Ireland. While Julie wasn’t looking to find love, her encounter with Roberto left her wondering if it was even possible, the connection between them was instant, their grief brought them together and their pain turned into love. The Lemon Orchard is compelling, heart wrenching and all around amazing. I can’t help but encourage everyone to read it.
These characters come together, their pain and loss created a path that would soon become and develop into more than a friendship, giving us the hope and the certainly that love and support can help mend broken hearts. Their friendship exemplary and pure, their love and understanding didn’t need explanation or words, their lives entwined and their past brought them an unexpected future. I loved The Lemon Orchard, a heartbreaking story of love, discovery, friendship and understanding. A story that suppresses the need for words and open the heart to possibilities. Love found when it was unexpected, support offered by the person who needed it most, and a friendship that broke boundaries and prejudice. This book has it all.
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Before dawn, the air smelled of lemons. Roberto slept in the small cabin in the grove in the Santa Monica Mountains, salt wind off the Pacific Ocean sweetening the scent of bitter fruit and filling his dreams with memories of home. He was back in Mexico before he’d come to the United States in search of goodness for his family, in another huerto de limones, the lemon orchard buzzing with bees and the voices of workers talking, Rosa playing with her doll Maria. Maria had sheer angel wings and Roberto’s grandmother had whispered to Rosa that she had magic powers and could fly.
Rosa wore her favorite dress, white with pink flowers, sewn by his grandmother. Roberto stood high on the ladder, taller in the dream than any real one would reach. From here he could see over the treetops, his gaze sweeping the valley toward Popocatépetl and iztaccíhuatl, the two snow-covered volcanic peaks to the west. His grandmother had told him the legend, that the mountains were lovers, the boy shielding the girl, and tall on his ladder Roberto felt stronger than anyone, and he heard his daughter talking to her doll. In dream magic, his basket spilling over with lemons, he slid down the tree and lifted Rosa into his arms. She was five, with laughing brown eyes and cascades of dark curls, and she slung her skinny arm around his neck and pressed her face into his shoulder. In the dream he was wise and knew there was no better life, no greater goodness, than what they already had. He held her and promised nothing bad would ever happen to her, and if he could have slept forever those words would be true. Sleep prolonged the vision, his eyes shut tight against the dawn light, and the scent of limones enhanced the hallucination that Rosa was with him still and always.
When he woke up, he didn’t waste time trying to hold on to the feelings. They tore away from him violently and were gone. His day started fast. He lived twenty-five miles east, in Boyle Heights, but sometimes stayed in the orchard during fire season and when there was extra work to be done. He led a crew of three, with extra men hired from the Malibu Community Labor Exchange or the parking lot at the Woodland Hills Home Depot when necessary. They came to the property at 8 a.m.
The Riley family lived in a big Spanish colonial–style house, with arched windows and a red tile roof, just up the ridgeline from Roberto’s cabin. They had occupied this land in western Malibu’s Santa Monica Mountains since the mid-1900s. While other families had torn up old, less profitable orchards and planted vineyards, the Rileys remained true to their family tradition of raising citrus. Roberto respected their loyalty to their ancestors and the land.
The grove took up forty acres, one hundred twenty-year-old trees per acre, planted in straight lines on the south-facing hillside, in the same furrows where older trees had once stood. Twenty years ago the Santa Ana winds had sparked fires that burned the whole orchard, sparing Casa Riley but engulfing neighboring properties on both sides. Close to the house and large tiled swimming pool were rock outcroppings and three-hundred-year-old live oaks— their trunks eight feet in diameter—still scorched black from that fire. Fire was mystical, and although it had swept through Malibu in subsequent years, the Rileys’ property had been spared.
Right now the breeze blew cool off the Pacific, but Roberto knew it could shift at any time. Summer had ended, and now the desert winds would start: the Santa Anas, roaring through the mountain passes, heating up as they sank from higher elevations down to the coast, and any flash, even from a power tool, could ignite the canyon. It had been dry for two months straight. He walked to the barn, where the control panel was located, and turned on the sprinklers.
The water sprayed up, catching rainbows as the sun crested the eastern mountains. it hissed, soft and constant, and Roberto couldn’t help thinking of the sound as money draining away. Water was delivered to the orchard via canal, and was expensive. The Rileys had told him many times that the important thing was the health of the trees and lemons, and to protect the land from fire.
He had something even more important to do before his coworkers arrived: make the coastal path more secure. He grabbed a sledgehammer and cut through the grove to the cliff edge. The summer-dry hillsides sloped past the sparkling pool, down in a widening V to the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally hikers crossed Riley land to connect with the Backbone Trail and other hikes in the mountain range. Years back someone had installed stanchions and a chain: a rudimentary fence to remind people the drop was steep, five hundred feet down to the canyon floor.
He tested the posts and found some loosened. Mudslides and temblers made the land unstable. He wished she would stay off this trail entirely, walk the dog through the orchard, where he could better keep an eye on them, or at least use the paths on the inland side of the property. But she seemed to love the ocean. He’d seen her pass this way both mornings since she’d arrived, stopping to stare out to sea while the dog rustled through the chaparral and coastal sage.
He tapped the first post to set his aim, then swung the sledge- hammer overhead, metal connecting with metal with a loud gong. He felt the shock of the impact in the bones of his wrists and shoulders. Moving down the row of stanchions, he drove each one a few inches deeper into the ground until they were solidly embedded. The wind was blowing toward the house. He hoped the sound wouldn’t bother her, but he figured it wouldn’t. She rose early, like him.
Thank you Viking/Penguin for providing me with an early copy for my review &
for donating a copy for the giveaway!