Jackson Taylor's The Blue Orchard

Verna Krone grows up with few opportunities but with enough grit to make her own. Raped by her employer in her teens, Verna is forced to realize early that some men cause woman trouble. The men she meets after her regrettable experience with Mr. Wertz do not disprove her initial thought. She hops from odd job to odd job, trying to make enough money to support herself and her family. A brief encounter with nursing during a flash flood emergency in Harrisburg, PA inspires her to become a nurse. Her first job, however, isn't exactly what she had in mind, but when she notices her old nursing school classmate making a load of money and working out of her home, her interest is perked. When she realizes that Dora has become so successful through her work with an abortion doctor, Verna shies away, but the needs of her family quiet her qualms, and she agrees to work for Dr. Crampton, a prominent African-American doctor who also performs abortions. Verna begins a life of illegal activities, as she helps Dr. Crampton perform the procedures and tends to the women during tPost Optionsheir convalescence. Verna has all the money she could ever want - it's literally overflowing from the chest upstairs - but the new job hasn't solved all of her problems. Dr. Crampton enjoys protection from powerful local politicians, but when they start having trouble in the polls, Verna realizes she may be in for a different kind of fight.

If you can get past the exposition - which reads like a "Verna did this and then Verna did that in rural Pennsylvania" - you'll find the meat of this novel to be compulsively readable. Taylor's depiction of Verna's experiences as an abortion nurse during the mid-20th century is both compelling and riveting. Taylor spent years researching this novel, and it shows. The historical details are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the novel. Taylor successfully takes a nugget of family history and expands it into a wide-focus lens, giving readers an opportunity to see a part of American history that they may know little about. The moral and social issues contemplated in this novel will make it a favorite for book clubs.


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