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The Orchard
Cover of The Orchard
The Orchard
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

A NATION­AL JEW­ISH BOOK AWARD FINALIST

A Recommended Book From:
The New York Times * Good Morning America * Entertainment Weekly * Electric Literature * The New York Post * Alma * The Millions * Book Riot

A commanding debut and a poignant coming-of-age story about a devout Jewish high school student whose plunge into the secularized world threatens everything he knows of himself

Ari Eden's life has always been governed by strict rules. In ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, his days are dedicated to intense study and religious rituals, and adolescence feels profoundly lonely. So when his family announces that they are moving to a glitzy Miami suburb, Ari seizes his unexpected chance for reinvention.

Enrolling in an opulent Jewish academy, Ari is stunned by his peers' dizzying wealth, ambition, and shameless pursuit of life's pleasures. When the academy's golden boy, Noah, takes Ari under his wing, Ari finds himself entangled in the school's most exclusive and wayward group. These friends are magnetic and defiant—especially Evan, the brooding genius of the bunch, still living in the shadow of his mother's death.

Influenced by their charismatic rabbi, the group begins testing their religion in unconventional ways. Soon Ari and his friends are pushing moral boundaries and careening toward a perilous future—one in which the traditions of their faith are repurposed to mysterious, tragic ends.

Mesmerizing and playful, heartrending and darkly romantic, The Orchard probes the conflicting forces that determine who we become: the heady relationships of youth, the allure of greatness, the doctrines we inherit, and our concealed desires.

A NATION­AL JEW­ISH BOOK AWARD FINALIST

A Recommended Book From:
The New York Times * Good Morning America * Entertainment Weekly * Electric Literature * The New York Post * Alma * The Millions * Book Riot

A commanding debut and a poignant coming-of-age story about a devout Jewish high school student whose plunge into the secularized world threatens everything he knows of himself

Ari Eden's life has always been governed by strict rules. In ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, his days are dedicated to intense study and religious rituals, and adolescence feels profoundly lonely. So when his family announces that they are moving to a glitzy Miami suburb, Ari seizes his unexpected chance for reinvention.

Enrolling in an opulent Jewish academy, Ari is stunned by his peers' dizzying wealth, ambition, and shameless pursuit of life's pleasures. When the academy's golden boy, Noah, takes Ari under his wing, Ari finds himself entangled in the school's most exclusive and wayward group. These friends are magnetic and defiant—especially Evan, the brooding genius of the bunch, still living in the shadow of his mother's death.

Influenced by their charismatic rabbi, the group begins testing their religion in unconventional ways. Soon Ari and his friends are pushing moral boundaries and careening toward a perilous future—one in which the traditions of their faith are repurposed to mysterious, tragic ends.

Mesmerizing and playful, heartrending and darkly romantic, The Orchard probes the conflicting forces that determine who we become: the heady relationships of youth, the allure of greatness, the doctrines we inherit, and our concealed desires.

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About the Author-
  • David Hopen is a student at Yale Law School. Raised in Hollywood, Florida, he earned his master's from the University of Oxford and graduated from Yale College. The Orchard is his debut novel.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2020

    Raised in ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, Ari Eden experiences culture shock when his family moves to bright, jangly Miami and he's sent to an upscale Jewish academy loaded with rich, sybaritic kids. Classy Noah befriends him, but their entire in-crowd soon starts pushing all sorts of boundaries. Yale graduate Hopen offers a debut with a 50,000-copy first printing, which says something.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2020
    In Hopen's ambitious debut, an Orthodox Jewish high school student finds his world transformed when his family moves to South Florida. When protagonist Ari Eden leaves his bland life in Brooklyn--where he never felt deeply rooted--for a glitzy, competitive Modern Orthodox day school in the Miami suburbs, both readers and Ari himself are primed to expect a fish-out-of-water narrative. And indeed, Ari finds that his new classmates, though also traditionally observant by many standards, enjoy a lifestyle that is far more permissive than his own (a shade of Orthodoxy that is known as "yeshiva"). Suddenly Ari's modest, pious world is replaced with a Technicolor whirlwind that includes rowdy parties, casual sex, drinking, drugs, and far more liberal interpretations of Jewish law than he has ever known. With its representation of multiple kinds of traditional Judaism, Hopen's novel is a refreshing corrective to the popular tendency to erase the nuanced variations that exist under the umbrella of "Orthodoxy." It also stands out for its stereotype-defying portrayal of Ari and his friends as teenagers with typical teenage concerns. But this is not just a novel about reorienting oneself socially or even religiously; though Ari's level of observance certainly shifts, this is also not a simple "off the derech" (Jewish secularization) narrative. Ari's new friend group, particularly its charismatic, enigmatic leader, Evan--a sort of foil for Ari--pushes him to consider new philosophical and existential norms as well as social, academic, and religious ones. The result is an entirely surprising tale, rich with literary allusions and Talmudic connections, about the powerful allure of belonging. This novel will likely elicit comparisons to the work of Chaim Potok: Like Potok's protagonists, Ari is a religious Jew with a deep passion for literature, Jewish texts, and intellectual inquiry, and as in Potok's fiction, his horizons are broadened when he encounters other forms of Orthodoxy. But Hopen's debut may actually have more in common with campus novels like Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Tobias Wolff's Old School; its narrator's involvement in an intense intellectual community leads him down an unexpected path that profoundly alters his worldview. The novel suffers due to its lamentably one-dimensional, archetypal female characters: the tortured-artist love interest, the ditsy blond, the girl next door. Hopen's prose, and the scale of his project, occasionally feels overindulgent, but in that sense, form and content converge: This stylistic expansiveness is actually perfectly in tune with the world of the novel. Overall, Hopen's debut signals a promising new literary talent; in vivid prose, the novel thoughtfully explores cultural particularity while telling a story with universal resonances. A captivating Jewish twist on the classic American campus novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2020
    When 17-year-old Ari's father loses his job, the family, Orthodox Jews, leave Brooklyn and move to sun-kissed South Florida, where Ari is enrolled in a prestigious coed yeshiva, Kol Neshama. There he is adopted by his neighbor, golden-boy Noah, and introduced to Noah's tight circle of friends, the most intriguing of whom is Evan, a reputed genius, who is deeply troubled and insists that he sees himself in naive, unworldly Ari, who hotly disputes this claim. But both boys do have one thing in common: they are obsessed with beautiful, musically gifted Sophia. Gradually, Ari is brought into the quasi-secular world of his new friends, learning to drink and smoke marijuana, even while he displays brilliance at writing and becomes a prot�g� of the kind principal, Rabbi Bloom, who has a similar close relationship with Evan, who is obsessed with seeing God and contrives a way, in the company of the other boys, to try to do just that, with disastrous results. This is a brilliantly conceived and crafted coming-of-age novel of ideas, replete with literary and philosophical references, many of them Judaic. Indeed, the novel almost demands familiarity with Judaism, its culture, rituals, and vocabulary. Happily, though, this doesn't compromise in any way the larger metaphysical meanings of the novel. At one point Ari asks a teacher, Is tragedy dead? The ultimate answer is that, in its majestic sadness, it is alive and well in this unforgettable novel.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 21, 2020
    Hopen commingles religious philosophy and dangerous behavior in his ambitious debut. Aryeh, 17, has always felt somewhat alienated from his deeply devout orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, so when his father’s job loss prompts a family move to southern Florida, Aryeh welcomes the opportunity to start over for senior year. He lands a coveted spot at elite Kol Neshama Academy, a modern Orthodox school whose students will undoubtedly drive their luxury cars all the way to the Ivy League. Despite his unfashionable attire and lack of social and academic sophistication, Aryeh is taken under the wing of the school’s golden boy, Noah. Noah’s risk-taking circle of friends in turn introduce Aryeh (soon redubbed Andrew) to the pleasures of secular life. Aryeh is especially fascinated by charismatic, emotionally complicated Evan, who has an emotional hold over Aryeh’s love interest, Sophia, and the group test their faith with daring escapades such as midnight speedboat rides (“if you’re the worthy one, you survive,” Evan says, fast approaching a jetty). Later, experiments with LSD bring on visions of God. Aryeh’s insecurities and longings are on full display in his insightful—if at times overwrought—narration. Though the students’ lengthy philosophical and scriptural debates initially seem ponderous, their thematic connections become increasingly apparent as the novel nears its moving climax. This isn’t your average campus novel, and despite its lumps, is all the better for it. Agent: Emily Forland. Brandt & Hochman Literary.

  • Entertainment Weekly "Both fresh and affecting... Essentially The Secret History set among highly observant Jewish Floridians.... Heretics, sex, drugs, and even Talmudic rituals that border on bacchanalia abound."
  • Good Morning America "Powerful and stirring, like a 2020 Jewish version of 'The Catcher in the Rye.' Structured into chapters by month throughout a typical school year and tackling the 'majestic sadness' that is tragedy, this journal-like book written by a Yale Law School student will definitely take root."
  • Crime Reads "[The Orchard] makes good on its promise to shine light on the workings of privilege in every culture."
  • Susan Choi, National Book Award winning author of Trust Exercise "David Hopen's riveting debut joins the urgency of a thriller with the devastating consequence of a spiritual crisis for its hero, who is no less imperiled by his religion than by the threat of its loss. In Ari Eden's story the clash between youth and experience, godlessness and piety, individualism and conformity, will feel both devastatingly familiar and utterly new. The Orchard throws open the doors to this world, and introduces a major new voice."
  • Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here "The Orchard is a wildly ambitious, propulsive novel touching on big, life-altering topics, but David Hopen manages that weight by never losing grip on the story, which blends philosophical questions with a unique thriller and a group of teenagers who command your attention. At the heart of the novel there's a yearning, a reckoning with those moments when we transform and when we wonder if we can ever go back. I'd be so wary of comparing any novel to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, but The Orchard can handle it because it diverges in such interesting ways."
  • New York Times Book Review "To be transported, wholesale, into a new and unfamiliar world is one of literature's great gifts, and the opening pages of David Hopen's ambitious debut novel, 'The Orchard,' promise exactly that.... Hopen is a stylish, atmospheric writer whose characters inhabit sensuous tableaus.... All-encompassing.... [Hopen's] talent is evident."
  • Anniston Star "A poignant and utterly devastating experience.... 'The Orchard' is intense and deeply moving.... Its questions are not easy, nor are the answers it provides. To discover a thought-provoking young writer like David Hopen this early in his career is a rare privilege indeed."
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