The Orchard House

Written by Heidi Chiavaroli
Review by Julia C. Fischer

Chiavaroli’s latest, The Orchard House, is a dual timeline book set in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1860s and 2019. The 21st-century portion of the story focuses on Taylor Bennett, a 37-year-old prodigal daughter, who returns home after more than a decade and a half when she learns that her mother has breast cancer. Now a bestselling author, Taylor fled Concord after her sister’s betrayal. But being back in Concord has forced Taylor to confront her difficult past and her feelings of inadequacy, all while reconnecting with her sister, Victoria, through their shared love of Louisa May Alcott and her Orchard House in Concord. The other storyline occurs in the 1860s, as Johanna Suhre befriends Louisa May Alcott. Johanna eventually goes to Concord to help care for Alcott’s parents. Feeling like there has to be more to life, Johanna is happy to be in Concord, making her own way. Difficulties lie ahead for Johanna, but luckily she has Louisa there to help her through.

Though this was an easy book to read, I was disappointed with The Orchard House. I was expecting a book with more substance and instead, Chiavaroli’s book is more historical fiction chick lit (this is a perfectly fine genre if that’s what you’re in the mood for). But I wanted more historical facts and details, a sense of a different place and time, and more three-dimensional, fleshed-out characters. I was also disappointed that Louisa May Alcott was a minor character since Johanna was the focus of the story set in the 1860s. Ultimately, the two storylines also connected in a much too coincidental way, and the book was predictable.