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IN BRIEF

Fiction

October 29, 1995|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE ORCHARD by Adele Crockett Robertson (Metropolitan Books: $21; 234 pp.) "Let the bank take it," Adele Crockett Robertson's mother and brothers said after her father's death in 1932. It was the height of the Depression, but Robertson, then 31, could not bring herself to abandon the farmhouse in Ipswich, Mass., built in 1760, with the peach trees and apple orchard of her childhood, the Baldwins, Northern Spies, Russets, Blue Pearmains or even "the Porter apple tree near the kitchen door from which my grandmother made a rich, dark, golden jelly every year." She left her job at the Hartford Museum and began repairing the tractor, the sprayer, the roof; revitalizing the bee population and pruning the trees. She woke at 4:30 each morning and worked until dark. Every day. She lived alone through grim New England winters. She was grateful for each victory and determined at each barrier to progress, including bankers, weather, ignorance, machines and money. "I awoke each morning eager for the day. . . . I cherished the beauty of the dawn, the first arc of light in the east and the misty shadows among the trees . . . the blazing rim of sun lifting out of the sea with the voices of the birds. . . ." This is her memoir from those few years of impossibly hard work, which she loved. Robertson went on to become a journalist and selectman in Ipswich. She died in 1979. The book is nothing short of a hymn.

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