“One week after
you stuffed a coil of rope
into your backpack
and walked uphill into
where blooms were still in closed fists
my father looked up
With those few lines begins Kana Goldberg’s story of loss, gain, and the new and sometimes frightening experiences along the way.
Upon hearing the news of a classmate committing suicide due to the teasing at the hands of Kana and her friends, Kana’s parents send her to Japan to live with the family that she hardly knows, working long hours under the hot sun in the mikan orange groves.
While feeling like an outsider at first, and feels as though her Jewish half will never be accepted by her traditional grandmother, Kana slowly carves her own niche in her own family.
Orchards is written in free verse with short chapters, and though the words are few in number Thompson manages to paint a beautiful picture of rural Japan from the eyes of a foreigner as she is learning her place in this new world.
While parts of the book reflect the chilling effects that a suicide can have on a community, the rest shows the warmth of family, true friendship, and what it means to be accepted.