1. The author's decision to move to Illinois and help her uncle with his bar was made on a whim. Have you ever made a decision that seemed small and insignificant at the time but in the end redesigned your life?
2. How might the lack of adult guidance in the author's childhood have laid the groundwork for her decision to get married so quickly?
3. Why did the author stay on the farm, especially in the beginning? Could her unconventional upbringing have led to an acceptance of a situation many women wouldn't have tolerated? How did her mother's rocky relationships play into Theresa's unclear view of marriage?
4. Would you have stayed given similar circumstances?
5. The author is never quite sure why Adrian married her. Was it passive-aggressive behavior on his part? Did he want to annoy his mother? Was he attracted to someone who represented the freedom he could never have? Or was it something else?
6. Did the author's ambivalence toward her mother-in-law exacerbate the situation? Should the author have tried harder to fit in?
7. A scion is a rogue branch that is unlike the rest of the tree. How were the author and her husband both scions? Was one more of a scion than the other?
8. Some cultures believe that no one can really own the land. Should farmers be monitored more closely and held accountable for farming practices? Do they have a responsibility that extends beyond themselves? Or should they be able to do whatever they want with the land they own?
10. In one scene, we're given insight into what drives Ruth. In many ways she's a product of her time, her generation, her childhood and her environment, all of which led to a need for admiration on a social level and the desire to rise above her heritage. Through marriage, she left her family history behind and gained a respect previously unknown to her. Her behavior would have been considered acceptable in certain circles, and her battle was not only for the farm but for her newly found identity. Did you ever feel sympathy for her as the life she'd worked so hard to build collapsed?
11. If Adrian hadn't developed cancer, what do you think would have happened? Would anything have changed?
12. We know that salesmen once drank the herbicide they were selling as a way of demonstrating the product's "safety," but do you think Lily really existed?
13. What scene impacted you the most?
14. In the final scene, do the roses have significance beyond a simple gift of flowers?
15. Did you learn anything new about apples? If so, what?
16. Do you have a favorite apple?
17. Will you ever look at apples in the same way?
Read O's review of The Orchard
See which books made O's 2011 fall reading list