In the Orchard, the Swallows – Peter Hobbs

Cover Image 5-stars!

okay, so i had to take a bit of time to process this read and while i have a few things to say about this beautiful book, i can’t guarantee any coherence of my thoughts. this book has sort-of…rendered me dumb. though probably “awe-struck” is a better term?

going into this read, i was very aware of hobbs’s backstory: 15 years ago, while travelling in pakistan, hobbs became very ill. so sick from a crazy virus that attacked his immune system and confounded doctors, in fact, he was rendered disabled and could not work or even function for 10 years. and while he is not totally better he is at a point where he can entertain choices about how to live and how to earn a living.

so, this information was very present in my mind while reading the story of a young man, imprisoned at the age of 14. he endures torture and is held for 15 years (all for falling in love with a girl above his station). hobbs maintains the prison arc was not an allegory for his own illness, but it’s hard to not make that connection.

hobbs’s writing is exquisite – spare, exact and beautiful. as a reader i was pulled into our unnamed narrator’s love, heartache and pain. so much is conveyed so simply with the prose and while our narrator experiences horrible things, i was left feeling, very strongly, this person, this story was full of hope, and humanity and compassion can still be found in this world in the most unlikely of places.

mark medley, writing in the national post, did a wonderful feature on peter hobbs, back in may of this year.

i am very grateful there are publishing houses (house of anansi – canadian publisher of awesomeness!!) and editors willing (and keen) to take on books that are quieter and less mainstream. i hope to convince many people to allow themselves to be transported by this amazing book and this talented writer.