The Simplicity of Cider

A Novel

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About The Book

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Don’t miss Amy’s newest work of women’s fiction: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go!

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

Excerpt

The Simplicity of Cider CHAPTER ONE
Sanna Lund’s thoughts of apple blossoms and new cider blends stuttered to an end with the grunt of her dad’s snore. Einars rumbled from the squashy armchair in front of the huge fieldstone fireplace framed by large picture windows, afternoon sun blanketing him. The stones had come from their orchard, unearthed when the first generation of Lunds began planting the orchard four generations ago. The stones varied in color and shape, from light gray limestone to rusty red granite, each highlighted by the golden light. Above the inset wooden mantel hung a huge collage of watercolor paintings, comprised of six-inch squares, each showcasing a different variety of apple grown in the orchard set against a distinguishing hue.

Sanna closed the refrigerator and set on the kitchen counter the baggie of sticks she’d been retrieving and walked across the huge great room to where her dad slept. His long legs stretched out in front of him, like roots expanding their reach. Everything about him was stretched, like taffy pulled slightly too far. His head tilted back enough for his gaping mouth to emit another snort. An open shoe box full of weathered photos and yellowing paper sat on his lap, while he clutched a single photo to his chest.

An afternoon nap was a common enough scene in other homes, but Sanna couldn’t remember ever watching her father sleep. Einars was a man of action, always in the middle of three different chores at once, making it all seem effortless. Age spots dotted his face from too many years in the sun before sunscreen was as recommended as the proverbial apple, wrinkles traced exactly where his smile would be if he were awake, and fluttering eyelids hid his sparkling blue eyes. Dark smudges pooled under his pale eyelashes, evidence of the late-night pacing that had become a habit during the last year. Sanna shoved away her guilt that she might be partially to blame for that, deep into the mental cave normally reserved for what people thought of her, dawdling tourists, and small talk.

When he’d come in from the trees, he had told her he would start their dinner. That was forty-five minutes ago. Sanna had been so immersed in grafting old branches to new trees, she hadn’t noticed how long he’d been gone. If she hadn’t come in to retrieve the scions—the twigs from older trees she was hoping to graft—from the house fridge, she wouldn’t have found him dozing.

Thinking she should wake him, Sanna smiled down at the man who was her world. He’d taken care of her through colds, puberty, growing pains that would have knocked an elephant to its knees. He taught her how to climb a tree, determine the exact right day to pick an apple, drive a stick-shift truck through the bumpy aisles of an orchard, and dip crispy french fries into her chocolate shakes from Wilson’s. She pulled the picture he was gripping out of his long fingers and glanced at the faded image, then dropped it as soon as she saw what it was, not wanting to hold it even a second longer. The four smiling faces beaming at her fluttered into the battered box. Her father, her brother, Anders, herself, and the Egg Donor. Sanna wouldn’t even shorten it to the friendlier acronym, TED.

She’d often seen the box tucked under her dad’s bed, but she’d never been curious about the contents. Her dad had always respected her privacy and given her space, so she had always offered him the same courtesy. At that moment, though, destructive urges boiled inside her—shoving all else to the side. Merely throwing away the box of photos wasn’t permanent enough. It deserved a more dramatic demise. She wanted to drive it to Gills Rock and toss it into the Death’s Door waters, where it could live with all the other shipwrecks. That’s where that box belonged.

Rational thought prevailed—she didn’t snatch the box and run away to destroy it—but it did little to calm her roiling emotions. She gently lifted the box, but her careful movements caused her dad to twitch awake, his hands pulling the box back to his lap.

“I’ve got it,” he said, the words still mushy with sleep.

Sanna straightened and watched as her dad fumbled to cover the box and pull it close to his plaid-coated chest.

“Why are you wasting time with that, Dad? There’s nothing worth remembering in there.”

He blinked away the sleep still muffling his senses and covered the box protectively with his arms. Einars smiled that annoying grin of elders who know better.

“Happiness is always worth remembering, even when it was temporary.”

• • • • •

Back in her happy place, the barn, Sanna snapped one of the sticks she’d grabbed from the fridge and searched for any sign of green inside. Nothing—only dry, dead wood. She tossed the branch onto her cluttered stainless steel workbench already strewn with beakers, plastic tubing, her journal—tools of her woefully unsuccessful cider-making business. And now, she failed again to graft her beloved heirloom apple trees onto newer stock.

After waking her dad, she’d returned to the safety of her barn, but the pain welling inside her wouldn’t go back down. The barn, complete with the fresh sawdust scent of new construction, was built into a small hill across a gravel-covered parking area from their house. The bottom level was used as the farm stand during the fall and a garage during the winter, while her workspace and cidery comprised the second level. She could get to the bottom story two ways: by taking the spiral stairs in the corner or by exiting the garage door on the opposite wall and walking around the building and down the hill. She’d bounded up the spiral steps two at a time just now, her long legs and resentment carrying her even more briskly than usual. She hadn’t been prepared to see the Donor’s smiling face, though she knew enough to know preparation wouldn’t have helped. Her day had been perfectly scheduled and productive, everything as expected. Awake at six, breakfast by six thirty, in the trees by seven with a thermos of black tea and a packed lunch, then to the cidery after lunch for an afternoon of quiet, peaceful work. That’s where she’d been before she found her dad, in the content corner of her mind full of trees and flavors—when she was ripped out of it like a fish flopping on a hook.

At thirty-two, she knew she should be over the betrayal. And she wanted to forget about the Donor, but, even after all these years, she could never forgive her.

“Didn’t keep?” her dad said, and pointed to where she had flung the branch. He stood in the doorway of her second-story workspace, his lanky frame outlined by the warm June sunlight behind him. Einars wore his usual work jeans and a lightweight long-sleeve work shirt over a tee. The vitality that had been notably absent during his nap vibrated off him now.

“No,” she said. “Not the ones I had in the house, or the ones I stored out here. All dead wood.” She had hoped to graft these twigs onto the root stock she’d been saving, to see if she could foster new trees from the heirloom stock in the back of the orchard. “I was able to graft the Honeycrisps and Galas with sticks I harvested the same day. I don’t know what else to try.”

She threw the twig and a Ziploc full of dead sticks into the large garbage can, then leaned against the counter to face her dad. Her large workbench spanned an entire wall in the mostly empty main room of the orchard’s barn. Later in the season, she’d share the space with giant crates of apples for the visiting tourists shopping their farm stand on the lower level. This early in the season, though, the wooden crates were empty, leaving space for her towers of waiting carboys—the five-gallon glass jugs she used to make her hard cider. Adjacent to her workbench was a refrigerated room and walk-in freezer, where she stored the juice she had pressed during the previous season in neatly labeled freezer bags and five-gallon buckets. Still waiting along one of the walls was the much larger press and new tanks her father had purchased this year, silent judges of her failure. She’d been trying for two years to sell her small-batch hard cider, but only a few locals seemed interested. Instead, the cooler overflowed with her finished products, carefully sorted according to batch.

Einars plucked the broken twig out of the garbage with long, thin fingers speckled from sun and age. He’d be seventy soon, but he didn’t act like it. He could spray a row of trees, trim branches, and make a delicious apple dessert all before one in the afternoon. They worked hard, but Idun’s Orchard thrived under their care—perhaps not as well as when the Lund population topped their meager two, but well enough they could support themselves. It was a decent life.

“You kept it hydrated? But not too wet?” he asked.

Sanna stared back.

“I take that as a yes.” Einars let the twig drop. “Maybe we need some fresh blood around here. You can’t expect the trees to give their best for just the two of us.”

“Pa, we don’t need more people complicating our system. If it’s not broken and all that. Besides, the trees don’t know any better.”

Einars looked out the window behind the workbench at the orchard below them.

“You’d be surprised. They say plants respond to singing and the moods of their owners, why not trees?”

Sanna returned her grafting tools to their proper places and pulled out beakers and measuring cups.

“I’m not singing to the trees.”

Einars stretched his fingers a few times, like a pianist before a solo.

“I need to get the spraying done in the Earlies. Can you run to Shopko to pick up some toilet paper and ibuprofen—just get the store brand.”

Sanna played with her necklace, a flat wooden circle strung on a silver chain, the wood worn smooth from years of twisting it with her fingers. Her mind sought the solitary peace of work to pacify the shock and failure of the day.

“I can’t today, Pa.” She opened her journal to where she had left off. Maybe creating something new would ease the disappointment in her chest. “I need to blend a new cider. I’ll see you at dinner.”

She disappeared into the walk-in cooler to get the juices she would need. When she emerged, her dad still stood next to her bench, now with the bag of sticks in his hands, pulling each one out and inspecting it.

“What if we clipped fresh twigs and did the grafting now?” he asked, then dropped the sticks back in the bin.

“I tried that last year, and they didn’t take. That’s why I used clippings that had a full season of growth in them. I thought they might be more robust.”

Sanna set the frozen juice blocks on the counter, already considering her dad’s proposition.

“How did you graft them?”

“Whip graft.”

“Let’s try the cleft graft on the understock you have, and a few side grafts onto some older trees. Maybe the scions want a more mature tree to grow with. What do you think?”

His idea could work—Sanna wanted to try it. She needed to know she could make more of those trees, that they wouldn’t die out under her watch after living for over a hundred years.

“What about the Earlies?”

“I can spray them tomorrow—this seems more important.”

That was good enough for her. She grabbed her grafting tools and led the way out of the barn, determined to be successful. She would discover the secret to grafting these finicky trees.

Reading Group Guide

This readers group guide for The Simplicity of Cider includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your readers group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

For Sanna Lund, change doesn’t come easy.

Sanna is perfectly content with her quiet life, living and working alongside her father, Einars, as a fifth-generation orchardist on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although the business is struggling, she cannot be persuaded to sell the land and start anew somewhere else. Idun’s Orchard is her home and the only life she’s ever known.

For Isaac Banks, change is what he needs.

Isaac is a single dad who has spent years trying to protect his son, Sebastian—or Bass—from his troubled mother. Then when tragedy strikes at home, Isaac and Bass flee, heading off on a road trip with no destination in mind. As luck—or fate—would have it, they end up at Idun’s Orchard.

There, Isaac secures a job, proving himself to be a blessing to the Lunds, and even more so when Einars is injured in an accident. But when an outside threat suddenly infiltrates the farm, surprising revelations are exposed. Just as Sanna and Isaac begin to find solace in each other, their lives become increasingly complicated—and anything but simple.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. How does the alternating narrative between Sanna and Isaac influence your understanding of the events and characters in the novel? How did you feel about the few chapters from Eva’s perspective? How would the story have been different if it was just from Sanna’s point of view? Isaac’s? Eva’s?

2. What kind of a father is Isaac? What is his motivation by withholding the truth from Bass regarding his mother’s death? Is Isaac trying to protect his son, or himself, from the difficult reality? Can you understand his choice?

3. The author represents Sanna’s connection to her ancestors through magical realism. In what ways does Sanna feel a strengthened bond to the orchard “like another root digging into the soil, finding nourishment” (p. 17)? Did you find this literary element to be authentically woven into the story? How did it change your understanding of Sanna’s devotion to the orchard?

4. Is there a proper way to grieve after tragedy? Like Isaac, have you ever taken a trip to escape from your troubles? Was it cathartic? Do you think going on an adventure to somewhere new helps the healing process?

5. Why is Bass the only person who’s able to soften Sanna? How does Bass change her impression of children?

6. Examine Sanna’s relationship with her mother. Why does Sanna refer to her as “the Egg Donor”? Despite her mother’s past attempts at reconciliation, Sanna refuses to allow her back into her life. Is Sanna being unreasonable? How would you react if you were in her position?

7. Sanna is very resistant to change, telling Anders, “The changes I don’t plan for are the ones that I hate” (p. 119). How do you react to changes that occur in your own life? Do you understand Sanna’s struggle to sell the land? What would you do?

8. The Simplicity of Cider offers plenty of insight into life on an apple orchard. Have you ever been to an orchard or tried cider? What have you learned about the cider-making process?

9. Why does Isaac describe finding Einars’s fentanyl bottle as “seeing a cobra in a baby’s crib—unpredictable and deadly” (p. 160)? Why is the sight of the bottle so painful for him? Do you think the anguish he feels is something he can overcome?

10. Describe Sanna and Thad’s friendship. Why does Sanna keep him around? Are you surprised by Thad’s disloyalty to the Lunds?

11. Betrayal manifests itself in a few strong ways in the novel: Isaac not telling Bass of his mother’s death; Thad sabotaging Idun’s Orchard; Anders not telling Sanna of his rekindled relationship with their mother; and Einars preventing Sanna’s mother from communicating with her throughout her life. Who has been most affected by betrayal? Can some of these instances also be interpreted as acts of love? Can love and betrayal intersect?

12. Discuss the role Eva plays in the novel. How are she and Sanna similar? Were you surprised by their ability to come to an understanding? How does their new business deal benefit both of them?

13. How do Sanna and Isaac evolve individually, and as a couple, over the course of the novel? How do they each deal with their own fears of vulnerability and disappointment? What have you learned from their experiences?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Plan an outing to a local cidery or apple farm. Have fun apple-picking and taste-testing all the different varieties!

2. Share with your book club: Do you cherish memories in specific ways, just as Einars does with his shoebox of family photos? Einars says, “Happiness is always worth remembering, even when it was temporary” (p. 3). Do you agree? What can you do to always remember the happy times of your life?

3. Bring your favorite apple dessert to your next book club meeting. Then, choose one of Amy E. Reichert’s other books for your next pick: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake or Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

4. Bass’s green dragon stuffed animal, Snarf, holds particular significance to him because it was a gift from his mom. Have each member of the group discuss a special gift or keepsake that they treasure. What do these objects represent for them? What memories do they hold?

5. Learn more about the author, Amy E. Reichert, at http://amyereichert.com. Follow her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/amyereichert) and Twitter (@aereichert) for more updates about her books.

About The Author

Photograph by Kelly Johnsen

Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie, The Simplicity of Cider, and The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her local library’s board of directors.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (May 2017)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501154928

Raves and Reviews

Praise for THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER

"Reichert captures the food, relationships, and unique settings of the Midwest at their best. I was absolutely charmed by The Simplicity of Cider."

– J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

"Reichert has once again delivered a sure fire hit with The Simplicity of Cider. It's charming, heartwarming and magical." 

– Nina Bocci, USA Today bestselling author of Roman Crazy

"The Simplicity of Cider will quench your thirst for a smart, poignant tale of people who find their true selves, and in the process each other, in the most unexpected places. A sparkling tale of creating family where you need it, and learning to let go of the things that hold you back from your best life."

– Stacey Ballis, author of Wedding Girl and Recipe for Disaster

"The Simplicity of Cider is the perfect blend of sweet, smart and immensely satisfying. If foodie fiction is a thing, Amy Reichert is the grand master."

– Colleen Oakley, author of Close Enough to Touch

"Deep family secrets and undeniable attraction collide in this wonderfully atmospheric and heartwarming tale of a father trying to save his son, a woman trying to save her family's land, and the way that the two of them might just save each other if they can stop the past from destroying their future. As deliciously satisfying as a crisp glass of the cider Amy E. Reichert so masterfully describes."

– Kristin Harmel, international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting, The Life Intended, and When We Meet Again

"With a dreamy setting and lovable characters, The Simplicity of Cider is so good you can practically taste it. Read it in the shade of an apple tree, near a perfectly dry bottle of cider, or wherever--just read it!"

– Kelly Harms, author of The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane

"Reichert's writing is like the song in your heart, at once lilting and joyous yet aching and real. The Simplicity of Cider is a comforting and layered read with a cast of well-developed characters who feel both unique and authentic, and a setting that will have you yearning for a trip to Door County and a mug of cider." 

– Sonali Dev, author of A Change of Heart

"The Simplicity of Cider is a novel as delicious as cider and as enchanting as magic--both of which are found in measured doses throughout the book. Amy Reichert has a way of writing about complicated relationships and seemingly impossible situations with a strong thread of hope that is both uplifting and substantive. This is a lovely book, meant to be savored."

– Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Guests on South Battery

"Brimming with hilarity, magic, and heartwarming unexpected relationships, The Simplicity of Cider is the ultimate ode to celebrating the dazzling splendor in small things. This will give you more fuzzy feelings than you can count.”

– Redbook

“A lot charming and a little bit magical, Reichert’s latest is warm and poignant and romantic… between the humor and the heart lies a subplot of family and setting yourself free — framed beautifully by a story that won’t let go.”

– RT Book Reviews (4 star review)

"Have you discovered Amy E. Reichert yet? This month she released her third book, The Simplicity of Cider, and I’m happy to say it is another terrific read. I loved how Reichert solved some of the major conflicts with ingenuity and heart. I loved how the characters made some crazy mistakes, but that they owned them and didn’t expect the people around them to readily forgive them, but when the time came for forgiveness, it was available and earned. I loved the amazing apple tree that was the heart and soul of the orchard. I loved the book’s hint of magic and the slight softening of the characters’ attitudes as they began to look for solutions and help from each other. And, of course, the book has a strong food theme, which Reichert is celebrated for. If you haven’t read Amy Reichert yet, I highly recommend you check her out."

– Bobbi Dumas, Kirkus Reviews

“I enjoyed all the quaint details about the food and Midwest settings… And the romance between Sanna and Isaac was the perfect mix of spicy and sweet!”

– Melissa D'Agnese, First for Women Magazine

Praise for LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE

“As irresistible and delicious as an actual slice of lemon pie, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie has all of the sweet ingredients that make a book impossible to put down. From the fallible yet lovable characters to the smart writing and layered plot, we tore through the pages of this thought provoking story. Amy E. Reichert has a flair for writing heartwarming fiction that will give you sweet cravings!”

– Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of THE YEAR WE TURNED FORTY and THE STATUS OF ALL THINGS

Luck, Love & Lemon Pie is touching, clever, and a hell of a lot of fun. Amy E. Reichert somehow manages to not only tell a stirring story about modern marriage, but also transport you poolside in Vegas. Simply put, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie is a great bet.”

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE and AFTER I DO

Luck, Love & Lemon Pie delves into the complexities of marriage and what we’re willing to do for the ones we love. With relatable characters and a lot of heart, Reichert delivers a story that is both entertaining and wise, and leaves you believing that, when it comes to true happiness, you can create your own luck.”

– Karma Brown, bestselling author of COME AWAY WITH ME

"Amy E. Reichert serves up another delicious serving of fresh wit and lots of fun in this charming tale of a woman determined to fix her marriage gone stale. This heartfelt novel is as funny as it is tender—in other words, the perfect summer read."

– Colleen Oakley, author of BEFORE I GO

“An enjoyable and thought-provoking exploration of a modern-day marriage in midlife crisis.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"Reichert’s second novel, after the popular The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (2015), will appeal to readers who enjoy a lighter look at self-discovery, family, and friendship."

– Booklist

"Laugh-out-loud, hold-on-to-your-panties women's fiction. The characters are game for anything when it comes to getting back what they think they have lost. Reichert is a talented author."

– RT Book Reviews, four-star review

Praise for THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE

"Deliciously entertaining! Amy E. Reichert's voice is warm and funny in this delightful ode to second chances and the healing power of a meal cooked with love."

– Meg Donohue, USA Today bestselling author of ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS and HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE

"Amy E. Reichert writes like your best friend and reading her words is like having that friend whisper them into your ear. The Coincidence of the Coconut Cake is a delicious story of food, love, and a wink at what people will do to have their cake and eat it, too."

– Ann Garvin, author of THE DOG YEAR and MAGGIE'S WATCH

"Amy E. Reichert whips up the perfect recipe for a deliciously fun read. Combine humor and romance with a dash of drama, then let it simmer. The sprinkle of Wisconsin pride is icing on an already irresistable cake. Warning: do not read this book hungry!"

– Elizabeth Eulberg, author of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB and BETTER OFF FRIENDS

“What a wonderful treat! Delicious descriptions of food and love and Milwaukee (I know! Who knew?). A sweet, endearing read.”

– Megan Mulry, USA Today Bestselling Author of A ROYAL PAIN

"The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a smart and delicious debut—a read as satisfying as the last bite of dessert after a lovingly-prepared meal. The novel is as much a celebration of the midwest and regional food as it is a love story between chef Lou and food critic Al. I adored Lou and her quirky makeshift family of restaurant customers and co-workers. Their missteps and milestones kept me racing through the chapters, craving another course."

– Susan Gloss, author of the novel VINTAGE

"Amy Reichert brings sweetness and substance to her delicious debut. Sign me up for second helpings!"

– Lisa Patton, bestselling author of WHISTLIN' DIXIE IN A NOR'EASTER

“Amy E. Reichert takes the cake with this charming tale of food, friendship, and fate.”

– Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME

“…Reichert's quirky and endearing debut skillfully and slyly examines identity and community while its characters find love in surprising places. Clever, creative, and sweetly delicious.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"A delectable novel."

– Bookreporter

“Highly recommended that you eat before reading this book…a light, fun read that feels a bit like eating dessert for dinner.”

– RT Book Reviews

"Well-developed secondary characters and detailed descriptions of the Milwaukee food scene will leave readers hungry for more. Fans of Stacey Ballis and Erica Bauermeister will find lots to love."

– Booklist

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