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by Jackson Taylor

On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. But Verna's new life falls to pieces when she is arrested for assisting a black doctor with "illegal surgeries." As the media firestorm rages, Verna reflects on her life while awaiting trial.

Based on the life of the author's own grandmother and written after almost three hundred interviews with those involved in the real-life scandal, The Blue Orchard is as elegant and moving as it is exact and convincing. It is a dazzling portrayal of the changes America underwent in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Readers will be swept into a time period that in many ways mirrors our own. Verna Krone's story is ultimately a story of the indomitable nature of the human spiritand a reminder that determination and self-education can defy the deforming pressures that keep women and other disenfranchised groups down.

Download The Blue Orchard: A Novel epub
ISBN: 1439186685
ISBN13: 978-1439186688
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: Jackson Taylor
Language: English
Publisher: Touchstone (January 12, 2010)
Pages: 416 pages
ePUB size: 1519 kb
FB2 size: 1207 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 581
Other Formats: docx rtf lrf azw

This novel is based upon real life story of the author's grandmother, Verna Krone. It is based on a year's research including hundreds of interviews and newspaper surveys as well as recollections of old family stories. What is presented is the intriguing story of a woman who struggled trying to survive from a low income background who becomes a nurse and is immersed in a world different from her poor, rural upbringing. She becomes a nurse for a prominent physician. The book explores issues of racial understanding, with a white nurse working for an African American physician, Dr. Crampton. Dr. Crampton is a civic and political leader in part because he rallies the African American community to support the Republican Party machine of State Sen. Harvey Taylor. Dr. Crampton is also noted for the city's immense secret as the person to go for safe abortions, as opposed to a "butcher" in Steelton. Dr. Crampton is the abortionist to people connected to the Mayor's office, District Attorney's office, Police Departments, and even the White House of three Presidents, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.

Verna Krone herself has struggled through the trauma of having an abortion. She was a psychiatric nurse prior to working for Dr. Krone, where readers learn of the intense conditions at Harrisburg State Hospital. While working with Dr. Crampton, about 5,000 abortions were performed. While this was illegal, many physicians referred patients to Dr. Crampton. The city elite's and legal system looked the other way, in great part because his illegal secret was their secret.

Political Science students will appreciate reading some insights into the Taylor Machine. African American voters were offered $2 per vote to vote for the Taylor ticket. People working for opposition candidates were greeting with physical violence. People who were dead or out of town still had votes cast in their names.

Readers interested in city planner and Harrisburg history will appreciate learning about the city's devastation of Harrisburg's 7th Ward and its removal of the poorest housing that removed many politically powerless African Americans from their homes, many of which had stood since the Civil War. Sen. Taylor sought to build many new state buildings on the 7th Ward. Dr. Crampton led support for this expansion, even though he privately was upset that this expansion would be across the street from his resident at 600 Forester Street. He told residents that Sen. Taylor promised to set aside 10 acres for residential use for all displaced by the Capitol area expansion. He promised the new residential spaces would be better than the ones they were leaving. Dr. Crampton boasted this his influence would save residents from a previous expansion when all the African American community received in return was land for two Y buildings. Dr. Crampton and the residents were tricked. What resulted were 70 units in Allison Hill for 200 displaced families to fight over. Many of the apartment prohibited children, leaving families totally displaced. On the other hand, a mansion that was displaced was lifted and moved around in order to make way for the renewal projects including a new bridge. The legislature named the bridge after Senator Taylor, the first time in Pennsylvania history the legislature named something after a politician still in office.

Tragedy strikes when an abortion is performed on a woman with pernicious anemia who bleeds to death. Dr. Crampton and Verna Krone are arrested for performing an abortion. Dr. Crampton at the time was 75 years old and his political influence was under attack from both within the African American Republican community and a growing sentiment for the Democratic Party among African Americans. Verna Krone threatens to name the 5,000 boyfriends and husbands whose wives and girlfriends had abortions, including leading names in the prosecutor's office. The charges are dropped against Krone. Dr. Crampton is found not guilty, yet is devastated. He dies a few months later,

Harrisburg enthusiasts will appreciate reading the attitudes of the Harrisburg of decades ago. These were times when Dr. Crampton, as an African American, could get a drink but not a meal in the Penn Harris Hotel. Harrisburg was then a city with no higher education, where the author notes that youth with ideas would move on to other places. Capitol employees are noted for their pettiness and envy. Readers wishing to read a historic novel of Harrisburg should read this book.
Although a novel, the author has based this on the true story of his grandmother, Verna Krone. If you google her name, you can learn a little about what happened when she and Dr. Crampton were arrested. Read the book for the rest of the fascinating story. I was impressed with Verna in so many ways. Her ingenuity was extraordinary, and yet she was full of human flaw. She is the type of character many writers dream of creating, but to the author, and now to us, she is real. For anyone from the Central Pennsylvania area, the very accurate descriptions of the Harrisburg and surrounding areas are sure to be familiar. Also very interesting was the Harrisburg history portrayed. If you are interested in political history, particularly on the state and local level, this book won't disappoint. I was struck how fragile Dr. Crampton's lifestyle and reputation were. Although I realize part of it was because of his race (he was African American), it is likewise astounding that he ascended to the level he did, in spite of his race. It was like he was hanging by a thread...and Verna was hanging right there with him. I also think the book depicts a necessary historical perspective of abortion. Even if you don't agree with abortion, you may come away with an understanding of its existence, at least in that day and age. The author did an excellent job of sharing his grandmother's story and researched so well the history and background that elevates the story to another level. This book covers it all....human failure, success, agony, joys, short, it is about life. Yet it also offers an intellectual historical perspective. I would highly recommend it for men, women, and even older teenagers.
After being burned out from Grad school, I had not picked up a book to read for enjoyment in over two years. I'm not a particularly fast reader, but I enjoyed reading a couple of books per month prior to my studies. A few weeks ago I decided to get back into the reading routine, and after a few recommendations from friends I decided upon reading Blue Orchard partly because it was based in the city I had moved to a few years ago. The mistake I realize I may have made is that the next book I pick will have to be quite extraordinary to not seem like a comparative disappointment.

There are other reviewers who can do much better justice than I in illustrating what the highlights/message of the book are, so I would encourage you to read them to get a better sense...but here is my spin:

The book is very dense with detail. Not quite to a Tolstoy extreme, but detailed enough to give the reader a close familiar bond with the main characters as well as being able to give a feeling of both place and time throughout the various parts of the book. The main character Verna represented for me the young tough stalwart I always imagined my grandmother may have been in her younger days growing up in depression era/wartime Scotland, while Dr. Crampton was the type of man that I would give the time of day for, if only to glean one of his many insightful words of wisdom.

The racial & political background that was Harrisburg society in the years the book was set was fascinating to learn. It may not have been quite so intriguing to me had the author not researched the subject so thoroughly. This ultimately felt like it gave me a solid foundation of knowledge which allowed me to better understand many of the tough decisions that were made by the characters, especially those that may have appeared counter intuitive to their well being had I not been privy to such details.

Great book. One that will be re-read over the balance of my life as I am quietly confident this book will grow with me and offer me new insights as I continue to grow as a person.