Tuesday, April 08, 2014

[Book Review] The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor


Darletha reviews THE BLUE ORCHARD by Jackson Taylor (Simon & Schuster, 2010)

This is a powerful novel I hope fans of detailed historical fiction or strong female protagonists will enjoy.

Verna Krone is a woman who evolves from a poor, uneducated Pennsylvania farm girl into a wealthy nurse during the Great Depression. During this time of widespread unemployment she is able to find work, thanks to a strong work ethic and support from a few male acquaintances. Verna eventually becomes a registered nurse, a profession that instills in her a new form of independence and self-sufficiency.   

Verna’s life takes a profitable turn when she, as white woman, agrees to work for a black doctor named Dr. Charles Crampton. Dr. Crampton runs a clinic for the poor in Harrisburg; he also secretly performs abortions with Verna as his assistant.  Dr. Crampton is part of an influential Republican political machine and a philanthropic community leader, so his secret work is under powerful political protection. 

Verna’s work helps her become very rich but it also taints her view of women and her relationships with the men in her life. As the years pass the political landscape changes. By 1954, Dr. Crampton and Verna are arrested for performing “illegal surgeries,” resulting in a high profile criminal trial.  

Told from Verna's candid but flawed point of view, this novel deals with race relations, women’s rights, and the ongoing issue of reproductive rights. The most fascinating aspect of this novel is that it is based on a true story--Verna is the author's grandmother!

This book is available from our Memphis Library’s Books in a Bag Bookclub Kit and worth a lively discussion.

Darletha, South Branch

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