cover image The Lemon Orchard

The Lemon Orchard

Luanne Rice. Viking, $27.95 (286p) ISBN 978-0-670-02527-5

Still devastated by grief five years after the death of her husband and teenage daughter in a car accident, Julia hopes to find solitude and solace while house-sitting at her aunt and uncle’s California estate. Amid the lush landscapes and lemon groves of Malibu, Julia does find these things—in addition to an unexpected relationship with Roberto, who oversees the estate. Roberto, an undocumented immigrant, connects with Julia over her loss: he became separated from his young daughter during their crossing from Mexico and believes her to be dead. Julia, an anthropologist specializing in movements and migrations, thinks that the little girl is still alive and sets out to find her—even if doing so means potentially losing Roberto. The plot alternates from an initially tepid pace to moments of intensity—as when the estate is threatened—that seem largely irrelevant to the developing narrative. Nevertheless, Rice’s fans will appreciate the evocative setting and unconventional romance, as well as the harrowing, if familiar, depictions of border crossing and the fascinating parallels drawn between Julia’s research interests (she studies the Irish who arrived in America over a century ago) and modern-day Mexican immigrants. Agent: Andrea Cirillo, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (July)