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HUDSON -- An international bestselling author will discuss her latest book about a pioneer family living and struggling on the American frontier, set in Northwest Ohio.
Tracy Chevalier returns to the Hudson Library & Historical Society to discuss "At the Edge of the Orchard" at 7 p.m. Feb. 1.
Chevalier is the author of eight historical novels, including the international bestseller "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which has sold more than 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.
American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband, son and cat. She is also the editor of "Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre."
Chevalier is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia.
"I am always amazed at how close nature is to us in the US," Chevalier said. "You think it's tamed, and then a bear steps out, or a river rises, or a lightening strike starts a forest fire, or whales appear offshore, or mosquitoes swarm you in a swamp. Then you feel connected to the past, because this is exactly what your ancestors felt."
The book, "At the Edge of the Orchard," is about the desire to move around to escape problems, Chevalier said. A boy witnesses something awful in his family, and he goes west to get away from it. When he reaches the Pacific ocean, he can't run anymore and must face his problems.
Chevalier does a lot of hands on research in addition to reading books on the topic.
She walked the Black Swamp, ate apples, learned to graft apple trees and walked among giant sequoias.
"I think the most surprising thing I learned was that sequoias actually need fire to propagate," she said.
Chevalier also includes historical figures John Chapam (Johnny Appleseed) and William Lobb, a plant collector in her novel.
"I like having real people in fiction; they anchor a story, and make what is made up feel more real," Chevalier said.
During her research Chevalier reread the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and "Pioneer Girl," a non-fiction account of Wilder's life.
"It was fascinating to see how she took her real life and fictionalized it, emphasizing some things while cutting parts that didn't work," Chevalier said.
Although Chevalier writes to entertain and hopes the reader cares about the characters, "At the Edge of the Orchard" has a message "to ask readers to look at the landscape around them -- especially trees -- and ask how it reflects their lives. What choices to they make, to move or to stay, based on their surroundings?"
Copies of "At the Edge of the Orchard" will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of the Learned Owl Book Shop.
Register for this free program online at hudsonlibrary.org or call 330-653-6658 ext. 1010.