Jodi Picoult quote for The Lemon Orchard

photo-2012-asideI feel incredibly honored to share this quote from Jodi Picoult: "THE LEMON ORCHARD is a small, lovely miracle:  a story that humanizes the plight of undocumented immigrants; that takes the political and makes it deeply and painfully personal. This is a love story - not just between two characters from different worlds, but about what we humans owe each other in debts of kindness and respect."  - Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of THE STORYTELLER

Jodi writes brilliant novels.  She has such compassion and is always seeking deeper understanding of the world and everyone who lives here.  She's a humanitarian who never shies away from the questions that scare many of us, and she writes about issues that need closer examination, justice, and human kindness.  I can't wait to read her new novel, Leaving Time.  Her praise for The Lemon Orchard means so much to me.

The Lemon Orchard: Reading Group Guide

the-lemon-orchard-by-luanne-rice-paperback-mediumThe Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice


(You can also download the reading group guide as a PDF here)

“They sat in the kitchen, Julia so lost in the tale that when he said the word suerte, ’luck,’ she could almost believe that he’d had it, called it forth, that they were five years in the past and their daughters both still with them.”

Five years ago, Julia’s life was shattered when her husband, Peter, and their only child, Jenny, died in a car crash not far from their Connecticut home. Julia’s grief is compounded by the fact that the police believe that Jenny—who was only sixteen and nursing her first broken heart—intentionally drove into a wall. After the initial shock, Julia took what solace she could in her work as a cultural anthropologist. “It had been her passion, to keep the dead alive through learning how they had behaved, where they had trekked in search of food, water, love” (p. 15). And now that Jenny is gone, Julia continually replays the memories of their time together, wondering if there was something she could have done to prevent the crash.

When her aunt and uncle take an extended trip to Ireland, Julia goes to stay at their beautiful Malibu home with her dog Bonnie. She has been a regular visitor to Casa Riley and its adjacent lemon orchard since childhood, but this is her first visit following the accident. Walking on the cliffs high above the beach, Julia experiences a fleeting moment when she thinks about how easy it would be to just let go and escape into the sea.

Although the Riley’s are away, someone else notices how close Julia walks to the precipice. Roberto is the latest in a long line of orchard managers, all of whom had come from Mexico seeking a better life. At first, Julia is uncomfortable with Roberto’s concern until she recognizes that he’s burdened by a sorrow of his own. She tells him about Jenny, and learns that Roberto, too, has lost a daughter. Since he is in the United States illegally, Roberto only reluctantly reveals more. Human traffickers called coyotes took Roberto, six–year–old Rosa, and a group of others from Mexico to Arizona through the Sonoran Desert. Roberto and Rosa were briefly separated just before he was picked up by the Border Patrol. When he was finally able to return to look for her, Rosa was gone.

Without resources, in constant fear of deportation, in desperation, Roberto gave her up for lost. But Julia feels there is reason for hope—and looking for Rosa makes Julia feel closer to Jenny. Soon, her burgeoning romance with Roberto awakens feelings she thought were gone forever. As Julia combs the Southwest for conclusive evidence of any sort, she discovers help in a most unexpected place. Meanwhile, Lion Cushing, the Rileys’ movie star neighbor and old family friend, watches the pair warily. “Lion wanted Julia and Roberto to be happy in their Casa love nest, but unions between educated women and the help never lasted” (p. 229).

A captivating tale of unexpected love as well as a nuanced and profoundly moving examination of one of our nation’s most controversial issues, The Lemon Orchard is one of bestselling author Luanne Rice’s most powerful and compelling novels.

About Luanne Rice

Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty–one novels, twenty–two of them New York Times bestsellers. There are more than twenty–two million copies of her books in print. A native of Connecticut, she divides her time between New York City and Southern California.

A Conversation with Luanne Rice

Julia has always felt close to the Mexican people, in part, because of her Irish ancestor John Riley, who fought for Mexican independence. Was there a real John Riley?

John Riley was born in Galway, Ireland and immigrated to America through Mackinac, Michigan in 1843. He and other Irish immigrants, fleeing famine and oppression at home, took jobs as soldiers in the U.S. Army. He defected to Mexico to form the San Patricio Battalion with other Irish–born soldiers. He was young, idealistic, charismatic, and saw Mexico as being the “side of right.”

You write very empathetically about Julia’s desire to be an anthropologist. Is this a field you ever considered going into yourself?

I studied anthropology with Professor June Macklin at Connecticut College. She was a wonderful teacher and ignited my lifelong interest in the subject. I’ve remained fascinated with migration, the movements of people in search of, always, a better life: more food, less hardship, opportunity.

The novel powerfully evokes the tensions of life along the Mexico-United States border and the horrors faced by Mexicans trying to cross the desert illegally. Did you spend a lot of time there while researching and writing the book?

I visited the border several times but did most of my research in Los Angeles, getting to know a family who crossed the desert much the way Roberto and Rosa did.

Are there organizations like The Reunion Project and the Found Objects gallery that are working to help undocumented immigrants who are separated from loved ones during their journey across the border?

There are forensic anthropologists who study human remains found in the Sonoran desert, and there are many people working to help immigrants during and after their crossings.

While Roberto and Rosa’s story ends well, you share the stories of others that did not. Did you feel hesitant about including some of the more graphic details?

I wanted to tell the story in the truest possible way. I spoke to people who nearly died on the journey. Others saw death along the way. These stories affected me deeply. They are a part of our national history, shocking and real, happening right now.

Malibu and Boyle Heights may only be a short distance apart in terms of miles, but they couldn’t be more different. What inspired you to bring these two disparate worlds together?

Living in Los Angeles has shown me how these worlds merge. You see workers waiting along the roadside, hoping to be chosen for a day’s work. How can we not look beneath the surface and see them as people? Oscar Mondragon has done that. He runs the Malibu Labor Exchange out of a trailer near the Malibu City Hall and the public library. It’s a place where workers are matched with employers, treated with dignity and respect.

Handsome, charming, and delightfully self–centered, Lion Cushing is a character straight out of Hollywood’s Golden Era. What movie star or stars did you base him on?

Lion is inspired by the same friend upon whom I based Harrison Thaxter in The Silver Boat. But I also think of him as Peter O’Toole meets Albert Finney and fast–forwards to George Clooney.

Immigration reform is one of today’s most hotly debated issues. Where do you see The Lemon Orchard fitting into the discussion? 

I hope that readers will see immigration as a human story.

Whichever side of the issue one might be on, your novel humanizes both the would–be immigrants and the law–enforcement officials charged with patrolling the border. Was this your intention?

My intention was to write a good story with real characters. Black and white thinking—all good versus all bad—makes me uncomfortable. It’s easy to blame one side or one group, but how realistic is that? I try to take a gentle approach, with compassion, not automatically shut down to ideas that make me feel uneasy. Everyone has a point of view, everyone has a story.

Discussion Questions

1.Julia and Peter’s marriage was strained long before Jenny’s death, but Julia felt guilty about the impending divorce because Jenny wanted them to stay together. Is staying in a marriage for the sake of your children ever a good idea?

2.Do you think Jenny’s death was a suicide? If so, why might she have decided to take her father’s life as well as her own?

3.How do Lion’s feelings for Graciela change the way you feel about him?

4.Roberto chose to take Rosa with him on the difficult desert crossing rather than leave her behind to grow up without him. In hindsight, he realized that he had underestimated the dangers they would face. Do you sympathize with his decision? What would you have done in his place?

5.Julia loves her dog, Bonnie, all the more because Jenny loved her, too. And Roberto is overjoyed to find Rosa’s beloved doll at Found Objects because she belonged to Rosa. Is there an object that you cherish because it belonged to a lost loved one?

6.Jack Leary decides to help Julia because he understands that it’s her way of staying close to Jenny, but he comes to feel that his late wife, Louella, would approve of his mission. How might Roberto and Julia’s story have turned out if Jack hadn’t become involved?

7.Ronnie sends Jack on a wild–goose chase to Tucson, hoping that he won’t come back and learn the truth about Rosa. Is she right to mistrust him? Do you condone Ronnie’s decision to make Rosa “disappear” from the system?

8.The Lemon Orchard ends on an ambiguous note with Roberto and Rosa reunited and Julia returning to California alone. Do you think that Roberto and Julia’s story will end here, too?

9.There are many Cinderella stories about women who are “rescued” from their less privileged lives by wealthier men. And—even in the twenty first century—relationships like Julia and Roberto’s give many people pause. Why is it more socially acceptable for the man in a given couple to have a better education and more money than the woman?

10.Have you ever been involved with someone who came from a radically different socio–economic background than your own? How conscious were you of your differences?

11.America is the land of immigrants. Did Roberto’s experience resonate with what you know about your family’s journey to America?

12.What is your opinion on the United States’ current immigration policies? Do you think that most would–be immigrants have a clear picture of what life in the States is really like?

facebook giveaway

sometimes we have giveaways on facebook.  here's an fact, it's running now.  you might win a tote bag and lemons from my lemon tree!  meanwhile, please do pre-order THE LEMON ORCHARD.  


Luanne Rice shared a link.
Posted by Luanne Rice · April 1
GIVEAWAY!! To celebrate THE LEMON ORCHARD being available for pre-order, 5 people will win tote bags and lemons from Luanne's own personal lemon tree. Share this post and comment that you have pre-ordered to be entered to win. Good luck!

The Lemon Orchard: A Novel
A heartrending, timely love story of two people from seemingly different worlds?at once dramatic and romantic Luanne Rice is the beloved author of twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. In The Lemon Orchard, one of her most moving and accomplished...

Booklist Review of THE LEMON ORCHARD

The Lemon Orchard

The Lemon Orchard.

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof

Rice, Luanne (Author) Jul 2013. 304 p. Viking/Pamela Dorman, hardcover, $27.95. (9780670025275).

Trust Rice (Little Night, 2012), known for fiction that explores the power of family, to find the humanity in illegal immigration, a topic too often relegated to rhetoric and statistics. The story centers on Julia and Roberto, both of whom have suffered the loss of a daughter. Julia’s was killed in a car accident. Roberto’s little girl went missing as the pair crossed into the U.S. from Mexico—a trek through punishing desert that Rice depicts with visceral, heartbreaking brutality. The pair meet at the Malibu home of Julia’s aunt and uncle, where Julia is housesitting and Roberto oversees the titular orchard. An unlikely friendship forms between the two, a bond born out of shared grief, which eventually grows into a tender romance. Though Rice acknowledges the cultural chasm between her lovers, she also imbues her characters with uncommon kindness and understanding. Initially weighed down with exposition, Rice’s novel picks up steam as Julia takes up the search for Roberto’s daughter. An unexpected plot turn will leave readers begging for a sequel.

— Patty Wetli

A Place to Call Home

homeWhere is it for you?  In The Lemon Orchard Julia drives cross-country from Old Lyme CT to Malibu CA.  She's lived her whole life on the east coast, but something inside is driving her to find a new place, make sense of life's events, hold tight to her some treasured ideas and let go of others.  She might not know it at first, but she's looking for a new home. Do you live in the same home town where you grew up?  Have you moved half a world away?  Do you love to visit the places you spent your childhood summers or have you explored new territories?

I've done both.  I love the Old Lyme beach cottage my grandparents built, and I've also left the familiar behind to search out new places.  It's not that one is better than the other; it's more a matter of listening to that inner voice and following where it leads.  Home is where the cats are, a place to sit quietly to think and write and read, a comfy chair in the shade.

What is the place that you call home?

[UPDATE May 7: Congratulations Rachel Hartwig on winning this week's drawing!]

A Tale of Two Bonnies


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In The Lemon Orchard, Julia drives cross-country with Bonnie Blue--the family dog, a thirteen-year old Blue Merle Collie that had belonged to her daughter Jenny. They left Old Lyme CT and drove all the way to Malibu CA--from the Atlantic to the Pacific--to housesit Julia's uncle's villa in a lemon orchard in the Santa Monica Mountains. I loved imagining that road trip because I know what good companionship and comfort animal friends can be. Bonnie, the collie in the novel, was inspired by a real-life Blue Merle collie that I knew when I was young. She lived with the family across the street; I babysat for the children and hung out at their house almost every day. Bonnie was a sweet, beautiful dog. Her coat was lovely--long and flowing, marked with shades of gray and blue. She ran through the fields with us, tromped through deep snow when we'd hike to to skating pond and sledding hill, slept at my feet after the kids went to sleep, rested her chin on her paws and gazed up with such soulful eyes, I could almost read the love she had for that family. So, two Bonnies--one that lives in my heart and memory, another that lives on the pages of The Lemon Orchard--soothing Julia, connecting her with her daughter Jenny. Or maybe they are one and the same... Please comment below to be entered in our weekly drawing. Good luck!

[April 30: Congratulations to Alicia Mylott for winning this week's drawing!]

This Week's Drawing

The Lemon Orchard Welcome friends!! Please comment on this thread the chance to win an ARC of The Lemon Orchard as well as a special tote bag. We will notify the winner on Monday April 22. Good luck! Love, Luanne

[UPDATE 4/22: Congratulations to Belinda Daniels Guy our latest giveaway winner! We hope she enjoys her advance copy THE LEMON ORCHARD as well as a tote bag featuring the novel's cover.]