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The Blue Orchard    by Jackson Taylor order for
Blue Orchard
by Jackson Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Jackson Taylor's grandmother Verna was always a puzzle to him - many things in her life seemed to be unsaid. On the one hand, she would spend 'money wildly one moment' and then be 'acutely frugal the next.' Finally, when he was 25 his father told him her story, and that was the genesis of The Blue Orchard, a fictionalized account of her life.

Verna started out as the daughter of a poor family in Pennsylvania and ended up with literally drawers full of money. How she got so rich is almost as interesting as Jackson's ability to detail the gender and racial issues of the time. Most women could only hope that marriage would better their lot. Unexpected and unwanted children could wreck a woman's or even a family's chances. Abortions were illegal, and many women died because of improper care. Verna's nursing education made a great difference in her life and the lives of many other women, but because she was working with a black doctor her work was doubly dangerous. Jackson shows very well how the politics in this situation worked - as long as the doctor had support and power his illegal activities were ignored and he could bring benefit to people who otherwise had no support, but when he lost power, his support also disappeared.

Although the story is not as tight as we might wish, this is fine writing. We have the distinct impression that Jackson has remained faithful to the events in Verna's life, and even though she died before he could finish the book, I'm sure she would have approved.

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