The Lemon Orchard

The Lemon Orchard - Luanne Rice 3.5 star read

Julia Hughes is taking life day by day. It's been five years since her daughter and husband died in a car accident. Her marriage was on the verge of collapse, her daughter was distraught and Julia must face the notion that the accident may have been an act of patricide and suicide. This idea is difficult for her to accept because she and her daughter Jenny were very close. Now she's left the East Cost to travel to Malibu, California. She'll stay in her uncle's home and try to find some balance and purpose for her life. It is there that she meets Roberto Rodriguez, the orchard manager for her uncle's lemon orchard. Although Roberto and Julia come from two completely different worlds, they are both mired in grief over the loss of their daughters . . . Julia's in an accident and Roberto's in an illegal immigration from Mexico across the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Is it possible for two disparate people to find love and healing?

Julia Hughes comes from a relatively privileged background. Her family history is mired in California history. She attended Brown University, majoring in Cultural Anthropology and eventually became an adjunct professor at Yale University. Her deceased husband was a lawyer. Roberto Rodriguez came from a poor village in Mexico. He lived with his grandmother and was a single-father just hoping to make a better life for himself and his daughter, Rosa. Roberto's father had immigrated to the United States many years ago, when Roberto was just a child, and had gained residency. Although Roberto knew that relying on a "coyote" to help cross illegally into the United States would be hard, he was determined not to leave his daughter behind. Their attempt to cross the desert was beyond difficult and resulted in capture by Border Patrol. Regrettably, Roberto had put his daughter down and was attempting to reach the pick-up vehicle when he was caught. Border patrol agents refused to listen to his pleas to find his daughter and when they went back out to find her, she was gone.

As Julia and Roberto's relationship progresses, Julia is determined to try and provide some answers for Roberto. Her quest leads to various agencies that attempt to reconcile families with their loved ones, deceased or alive. What follows is a story of love and hope for a better tomorrow. The Lemon Orchard isn't a typical love story. It presents a different slant to illegal immigration from both perspectives, that of the immigrant and that of Border Patrol. Ms. Rice does a wonderful job of incorporating an abbreviated history of California and modern reconciliation efforts into the story. The ending was rather unexpected yet I can't imagine it ending any other way (you'll have to read it for yourself to understand). If you enjoy stories that incorporate a hope for a better tomorrow with romantic overtones, then you'll definitely want to read The Lemon Orchard.