Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As its title suggests, “Remembering Orchards” is reflective, recalling many glimpses from earlier times in the narrator’s life, especially from the ages of twelve to seventeen, when he lived with his mother and stepfather. The incomplete understanding the narrator had then contrasts with the clarity of vision that he now enjoys, a clarity that illuminates those remembered glimpses with remarkable insight and powerfully figurative language of haunting precision.

As the reader progresses through the story, many similes lead toward the overall metaphor, that of typesetting as the narrator’s equivalent of his stepfather’s orchard gardening. Among these similes is the narrator’s recollection that his stepfather moved gently and fluidly, but with such confident strength that his movements are best described by the Chinese simile, “like silk that hits like iron.” The narrator clearly sees his late stepfather’s carriage as “a spring-steel movement that arrived like a rose and braced like iron.” Even in the stepfather’s tragically premature end by chemical poisoning, his image is fixed in a botanical simile that reveals a powerful but dying man, “contorted in his bed like a root mass.”

The stepfather’s epitaph, consisting of lines from a Robinson Jeffers poem that were placed on his headstone in a filbert orchard by his loving spouse (the narrator’s mother), also describes the stepfather metaphorically: He was “the spirit/ Of the beauty of humanity, the petal of a lost flower/ blown seaward by the night wind, float[ing] to its quietness” and eternal rest. These well-chosen words and images bring peace, not simply to the narrator/author, but to the reader as well. Lopez may have written a story that looks like an essay; however, it reads like poetry.