When Julia lost her 16-year-old daughter, Jenny, and her husband in a car crash on a cold February day in Connecticut, she knew her life would never be the same again. They had been planning a get-together for that evening, gathering supplies and food to feed their guests and laughing together as a family. Between a trip to town and the journey home, Julia became the sole survivor simply because she was in another car.
It’s now five years later, and Julia has moved forward with her life as best she can. Although she still feels the loss of her daughter intensely, she's ready to make a trip to Malibu, California, to house-sit for her favorite uncle and aunt while they're away on a research trip to Ireland. With her trusty, elderly dog, Bonnie, at her side, Jenny drives across country, anticipating a welcome change of scenery and a chance to connect with old friends and family.
"THE LEMON ORCHARD is an intensely touching book that immediately transports the reader from wherever they are to the balmy California coast. It's almost possible to feel the Santa Ana winds, smell the lemons and experience the spray of the ocean in the breeze."
When she arrives at Casa Riley, she soaks up the clean, fresh scent of the lemons growing on the trees, enjoys the sparkling view of the Pacific, and revels in the feeling of being nestled in the Santa Monica mountains. She also meets the manager of the lemon grove, native Mexican and undocumented worker Roberto.
Strangely enough, Julia feels an immediate connection with the kindhearted man whose life couldn't be more different from her own. Before long, she discovers that Roberto has suffered the loss of his own daughter, although under completely different circumstances. When Roberto made the trip through the desert from Mexico to the United States, he brought his six-year-old daughter, Rosa, with him because he couldn't bear to leave her behind. Unfortunately, during the crossing, they became separated and he never has been able to discover her whereabouts in the five years since it happened. Like Julia, he's filled with grief and despair at the loss of his precious girl.
As Roberto and Julia grow closer, she becomes determined to search for little Rosa. Using her connections in the anthropology world, Julia rounds up several individuals who help her try to discover Rosa's fate on that long-ago day. Even if they find out the worst, at least Roberto can find the closure that he so desperately needs. While Julia can't bring back her own daughter, could it be that she could locate Roberto's?
THE LEMON ORCHARD is an intensely touching book that immediately transports the reader from wherever they are to the balmy California coast. It's almost possible to feel the Santa Ana winds, smell the lemons and experience the spray of the ocean in the breeze. The characters of Julia and Roberto are mesmerizing as we learn what makes them tick throughout the chapters. While the novel does contain elements of suspense surrounding the search for Roberto's daughter, it can still be considered a comfort read solely from the charming setting, the interaction between the characters, and the warm emotions that fill the pages.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on July 12, 2013