September 1, 2019

A com­mand­ing debut and a poignant com­ing-of-age sto­ry, The Orchard is 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.

Discussion Questions

At its core, The Orchard is a deeply sat­is­fy­ing philo­soph­i­cal mys­tery in both the cor­po­re­al and spir­i­tu­al sense. Leav­ing behind the pre­scribed moral cer­tain­ty of his Ortho­dox life in Brook­lyn, the high­ly gift­ed Ari Eden is thrust into Zion Hills with its own brand of reli­gios­i­ty” — a para­dox­i­cal com­bi­na­tion of pool par­ties and dav­en­ing. As Ari sheds his Brook­lyn life in both a lit­er­al and metaphor­i­cal sense, he encoun­ters a ter­ri­ble secret that ulti­mate­ly leads to an exis­ten­tial cri­sis. This dark com­ing-of-age sto­ry where the quest for truth and mean­ing can be both trag­ic and intox­i­cat­ing is near­ly impos­si­ble to put down. This bril­liant, fast paced lit­er­ary debut chal­lenges us to ask: How much are we real­ly sup­posed to know?