• The Orchard Keepers

The Orchard Keepers


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978-1-926455-90-7 | 2017 May | 364 Pages


• Finalist for the Book Design Award at the 2018 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!

Robert Pepper-Smith’s trilogy of novels chronicling the lives of those with deep roots in the orchard lands of British Columbia comes full circle with this volume, collecting newly revised editions of The Wheel Keeper and House of Spells with Sanctuary.

The Wheel Keeper introduced readers to Michael Guzzo, raised in one of the many immigrant families who flocked to the vineyards and orchards of the Kootenays. When the government plans to flood his village for a hydroelectric project, young Michael seeks escape with his rebellious cousin Maren, who is experiencing her own story of displacement.

In House of Spells, Rose and Lacey are two teenagers from the region who share a vital connection to Michael. When Rose becomes pregnant, the wealthy Mr. Giacomo offers to raise the child, but can this mysterious benefactor be trusted? Or is there something sinister going on behind the local entrepreneur’s offer?

Finally, in the never-before-published Sanctuary, the stories of Michael, Rose and Lacey merge after Lacey goes in search of Michael in Central America. These two seekers, estranged from their homeland, must face down the forces of industry and politics that threaten their life-sustaining connections to land, identity and memory.

“With considerable skill and sensitivity, Robert Pepper-Smith reveals something both tragic and magical in his story of three friends whose childhood village and its essential orchards are flooded by an ambitious government, driving the population out of their homes and into the dangers and uncertainties of a larger world. In exploring the survivors' fates he has given us a wonderfully original, ambitious, and engaging novel.”
~ Jack Hodgins, author of Cadillac Cathedral and The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne

The Orchard Keepers is a novel of fierce, quiet resistance. Against a backdrop of the flooding of Columbia River valleys for hydroelectric dams in the 1950s and the displacement of Guatemalan farmers by foreign mining interests in the 1970s, the lives of the characters incandesce, defying despotism in all its forms. Staunch, independent, unique, they bear witness to the real power of human connection, patiently transmitting language, memory, and nurture.”
~ Karen Hofmann, author of After Alice and Water Strider

”A quietly but powerfully political book about uprootedness and connection to the land.”
~ Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

Chiapas, Mexico 198


His dream was to return to San Miguel, to play during the festival there. One morning he got up early, the gang members all lived in a house in the 18th district, quietly gathered his things and left, caught the bus to Huehue. From that city he caught another, regional bus to El Tablon, the village of his birth where his mother lived on her small plot of land.

His mother was overjoyed to see him. She led him into the house to cook some kale and beans for him. She looked much better than he remembered her from two years ago. There was new light in her eyes and she had put on weight. The house was surrounded by tall corn, a healthy green that he’d never seen in the family crops before and her little garden of medicinal plants was flourishing.

He asked about his younger brother Carlos. It turned out that, a year earlier, he’d attended a demonstration against the Canadian mine in their Department.

In order to accommodate the mine’s need for land, many people were forced to leave their small farms.

Carlos had received a warning that he had been photographed at the demonstration and that it would be best if he left the country.

He’d gone to Los Estados. He was established in Florida and was sending home money regularly.

Because his mother was alone, Bernabe decided to stay on to help with the crops. The festival in San Miguel was a few months away. Besides, he remembered how his father had loved his milpa, how every year he’d give each plant careful attention, and he wanted to know what it felt like, to really care from day to day for the crops you grew. Besides, he was ashamed at abandoning his mother in her grief and wanted to show her that he was worthy of her love and forgiveness.