Chevalier has a well-earned reputation for having an eye for the smallest detail that secures the story in the era in which it is set. Her latest novel is richly evocative of a time when the land beyond the eastern seaboard of the US had to be claimed and tamed through grit and determination. In 1838 James and Sadie Goodenough have settle in the inhospitable Black Swamp of Ohio, planting their sorry plot of land with vegetables and precious apple trees. Their volatile relationship crumbles incrementally as Sadie’s resentment of her husband’s devotion to the trees grows. After years of harsh living, violence splinters the family and the eldest son, Robert, flees to California. His story is that of generations who traversed the uncharted swathes of the continent, hoping for a better life. Peppered with characters like folk hero Johnny Appleseed and plant hunter William Lobb, this is a beautifully constructed and delivered tale, honestly brutal and forgiving of human imperfection.