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The Orchard: A Novel Paperback – 5 January 2022
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"Audacious.... With The Orchard Hopen may have taken the boldest step yet in the ongoing turn of the American Jewish novel back to the sources of Judaism.... The Orchard [is] something distinctively new in fiction."--Tablet
"David Hopen's ambitious debut novel combines the religiously observant world of Chaim Potok's books with the academic hothouse of Donna Tartt's The Secret History and F. Scott Fitzgerald's observations of the rich and privileged.... [A] singular addition to the world of Jewish fiction as well as a notable variation on the classic campus novel."--BookPage
"To be transported, wholesale, into a new and unfamiliar world is one of literature's great gifts, and the opening pages of David Hopen's ambitious debut novel, 'The Orchard, ' promise exactly that.... Hopen is a stylish, atmospheric writer whose characters inhabit sensuous tableaus.... All-encompassing.... [Hopen's] talent is evident."--New York Times Book Review
"The Orchard is a wildly ambitious, propulsive novel touching on big, life-altering topics, but David Hopen manages that weight by never losing grip on the story, which blends philosophical questions with a unique thriller and a group of teenagers who command your attention. At the heart of the novel there's a yearning, a reckoning with those moments when we transform and when we wonder if we can ever go back. I'd be so wary of comparing any novel to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, but The Orchard can handle it because it diverges in such interesting ways."--Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here
"A poignant and utterly devastating experience.... 'The Orchard' is intense and deeply moving.... Its questions are not easy, nor are the answers it provides. To discover a thought-provoking young writer like David Hopen this early in his career is a rare privilege indeed."--Anniston Star
"Both fresh and affecting... Essentially The Secret History set among highly observant Jewish Floridians.... Heretics, sex, drugs, and even Talmudic rituals that border on bacchanalia abound."--Entertainment Weekly
"Powerful and stirring, like a 2020 Jewish version of 'The Catcher in the Rye.' Structured into chapters by month throughout a typical school year and tackling the 'majestic sadness' that is tragedy, this journal-like book written by a Yale Law School student will definitely take root." --Good Morning America
"The most brilliant novel I read this year.... A wildly engrossing bildungsroman.--Book Riot
David Hopen's riveting debut joins the urgency of a thriller with the devastating consequence of a spiritual crisis for its hero, who is no less imperiled by his religion than by the threat of its loss. In Ari Eden's story the clash between youth and experience, godlessness and piety, individualism and conformity, will feel both devastatingly familiar and utterly new. The Orchard throws open the doors to this world, and introduces a major new voice.--Susan Choi, National Book Award winning author of Trust Exercise
About the Author
David Hopen is a student at Yale Law School. Raised in Hollywood, Florida, he earned his master's from the University of Oxford and graduated from Yale College. The Orchard is his debut novel.
- Publisher : HarperCollins US (5 January 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 496 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062974750
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062974754
- Dimensions : 13.49 x 2.84 x 20.32 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 103,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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1. The story makes no sense. Dozens of plot points are never explained or paid off. Just meandering meaningless nonsense.
2. I live in both of the worlds this author is trying write about. Both are horribly inaccurate and more importantly implausible. Yes it is fiction but it should be listed under fantasy. Star student athlete and top students getting drunk and high every day? Yeshiva kid fitting into extremely academic Modern Orthodox school miraculously in 12th grade? No family is dumb enough to put their sheltered 12th grader into an Ivy League prep school. And any school with students this disturbed would have them talk to a school psychologist. I could go on...
3. The characters are extraordinarily flat. No growth. No change. No explanation for their bizarre behavior and actions. Boys talk philosophy. Girls look pretty or are nerdy tutors. Characters make terrible choices that are not justified or earned by the narrative. Terrible things happen to characters for no reason. Complete mess.
4. Honestly, this book seems to have been written so that the author could show off his admittedly vast philosophy background. There is literally no other purpose to these sections of the book. Also they are incredibly dense and not really very understandable.
5. As weird at it might be for a Law Student author to have an unhealthy obsession with philosophy it buggers disbelief to imagine 5 alcoholic pothead boys sitting with a rabbi and discussing advanced philosophy like they are talking about the latest Marvel or Star Wars film.
6. There is no real conflict or resolution in the book. There are many potential conflicts and areas for tension but they are all left to wither and die before they can even begin rising action.
7. The writing is weird. Hebrew words (which I know well) being transliterated inconsistently, kids using Yiddish and Hebrew expressions that no one ever uses, and random fancy English words that add nothing.
8. Honestly, this book is so bad it is actually a work of art as a depiction of pretentious preening putrid published prose.
9. The fact that anyone, let alone The NY Times and the Jewish Book Review, could read this book and think it is good makes absolutely no sense. Impossible to explain. This is not a matter of taste. It’s a matter or competency.
I wanted a character to love, but, in my opinion, the author has to love their characters for me to love them and it didn't seem to me that Hopen loved any of them. I felt only disdain.
Mysticism is dangerous, as the Hagigah 14b story relates. Mysticism wedded to wealth, power and privilege is a recipe for disaster--as the novel makes plain.
I believe the purpose of life is 'aliveness' ('elasa' in my birth-language). "Aliveness" is neither great nor grandiose. An orchard is alive but it's not divine or secular but gentle and fruitful. "The Orchard" was not alive, not in that sense. I looked for a single character that evoked 'aliveness' but . . . found no Rabbi Akiba anywhere.
In a word, The Orchard is spectacular