Saturday, June 21, 2014

A gentle romance, a deadly desert in The Lemon Orchard

Luanne Rice is well known to readers of women's fiction. She has written 31 novels, most of them best-sellers, and five novels became movies or miniseries.
"The Lemon Orchard," her newest work, may include romance, but that is only the beginning. 
The relationship kindled between Julia, a grieving mother who is house-sitting at a lemon orchard in Malibu, and Roberto, the orchard manager, is based on their mutual experience of tragic loss. 
Roberto is the guilt-ridden father of a child he was forced to abandon while crossing through the desert enroute to the U.S. Julia has lost her daughter in a horrific car accident. Their shared pain crosses the societal barrier between a quiet, cautious American woman and an illegal immigrant making his way in this country. Julia's sympathy for Roberto's loss, and her skills as a cultural anthropologist, lead her to a search for the long-missing child, even though it has been five years since the incident.
Don't mistake this for a simple, uncomplicated romance; it is not. Rice portrays the tragic circumstances endured by impoverished Mexicans crossing into the U.S. in dangerous conditions and deadly heat, taken advantage of by unscrupulous "guides" and the occasionally cruel border patrol officer. 
This picture is not a pretty one, but it well details the conditions leading to illegal migration and continued residence in our country. The risks these people take are harrowing and very affecting to those unfamiliar with the realities of U.S. border enforcement.
Julia and Roberto ignore the mild disapproval of society about their relationship, and focus on recovering love, amid the crippling world of pain inherited by parents who have lost children—a devastating grief and self-blame that overrides anything else that follows.
Rice has written "The Lemon Orchard" with simple truth, careful research and a voice that speaks for common decency amid the indifference of law. She has related the arguments for and against illegal immigration to the experiences of characters in her book. The outcome may move you to the other side of the "moral" fence on this matter.
 "There has always been migration. That goes without saying when you have a rich country like ours sharing a border with a country as poor as Mexico," says a fictional member of the Reunion Project, a real organization which attempts to link those lost in the process of migration to those who seek them. "... The U.S. wants to protect the border." Where the two sides intersect, there is death.
Penguin Books published this novel in paperback and released it May 27. To learn more about Luanne Rice, see her website at