Mary Frances Lombard—known as Frankie—has found her paradise. The 400 acres of the Lombard apple orchard are where she plans to be for the rest of her life. Like her father, she will quiet the wind and “outwit a storm”; she will make hay; she will grow apples; she will marry her brother William and together “carry on the business” forever.
In this way, Jane Hamilton (The Book of Ruth) introduces us to the fierce child narrator of her latest work, The Excellent Lombards. Frankie’s fantasy is silly, we know that. Nevertheless, Hamilton uses exaggerated, territorial and overly emotional kid-logic to great effect to make sure the reader is on Frankie’s side, and feeling her pain, even if it is with a chuckle. We follow her over the years, as reality slowly creeps into the black-and-white world inside the boundaries of the orchard. We see various grown-up experiences and tragedies—running a business, keeping peace in the family, even the 9/11 terrorist attacks—all through the self-centeredness of a child’s perspective, making them tender and often funny.
If, like me, you occasionally suffer from the affliction of wanting to live on a farm, then The Excellent Lombards is for you. But even if you don’t share that fantasy, this coming-of-age story is captivating and passionate, taking us back to being a child and believing in one thing wholeheartedly. Simply put, this is a book you won’t be able to put down.