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Grinza's Orchard

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Burdened by weak, nondescript prose, thinly sketched characters, technical errors and a woefully Western lens, Grinza's Orchard lacks magic.

Synopsis

Grinza’s Orchard is the story of a Gypsy girl growing up in the early 1900’s in Romania and contains many authentic gypsy cultural rituals and life events. It also features a bit of magic and enchantment.

It is about Grinza’s life, her dreams, and her struggles to overcome such obstacles as finally achieving her life’s passion of having her very own cherry orchard, and then suddenly losing it; surviving repeated attempts by an unwanted suitor to hurt her; and the sacrifice she has to make to save her parents from devastating illness during the coldest winter on record in their village. The story follows Grinza, her husband Clopin, and their children’s lives in the small gypsy village of Cojasca. It is a feel-good story filled with laughter, magic and even some sadness.

You will fall in love with Grinza…

Laugh with her as she is willing to try anything to get rid of her freckles… cry with her as she gives up her greatest possession to save her parents… cheer for her as she reaches her lifelong dream… and follow her as she grows up, gets married and has children of her own.

At the beginning of Grinza’s Orchard, the titular heroine’s greatest concern are the freckles dotted across her face. Dwelling in a cozy Romanian community with her loving parents, Grinza, a Romani teen, is a dutiful daughter. Strikingly so. It’s her strong moral compass, her willingness to self-sacrifice, and her sense of deference and respect that sets her apart in her village. Grinza is an extraordinary young woman with a big heart and a head full of grand, but achievable, dreams: she wants love, and she wants to grow her own cherry tree orchard. 


From those sentiments, Grinza’s Orchard ought to be a sweet and uplifting read. It ought to glimmer with joy and hope like a pinch of pixie dust scattered on a bed of flowers. Instead, Grinza’s Orchard, were it a material item, would be a burlap sack. Coarse, bland, and entirely uninteresting. 


It’s rather a tragedy that a book with so much potential could be such a bust. But alas! 


The prose is heavy, dull, and entirely lacking in description. There are distracting technical errors -- missing quotation marks, multiple lines of dialogue mashed together, and awkward text breaks that could use transitions. And the characters, other than Grinza, are painfully underdeveloped with no distinct voices or personalities of their own. 


But by far the most disappointing part of Grinza’s Orchard is the anemic representation of Romani culture. With stereotypical “gypsy” tropes (think fortune-telling and crystal ball reading) and an entire lack of cultural traditions, Grinza’s Orchard is shamefully shallow. Diverse representation, especially for notoriously marginalized and misunderstood populations, like the Roma people, is desperately needed. The authenticity of Grinza’s Orchard is dubious at best. Instead of celebrating the rich cultural traditions, Grinza’s Orchard takes a decidedly white-washed, Western approach. Grinza’s own wedding ceremony is set in a church, presided over by a priest, and involves her flouncing down the aisle in a white dress to a bridal march. Just...why? 


I appreciate that Leonard Eckhaus was trying to bring attention to the Romani people and to demystify their culture, but he goes about it in such a woefully uneven and clumsy way that nothing about the story feels truly authentic. 


Unfortunately, despite starting out charmingly enough, Grinza’s Orchard quickly becomes brittle and tiresome. Burdened by weak, nondescript prose, riddled with technical errors, flat characters, and woefully Westernized, Grinza’s Orchard is disappointing and dull. Skip it. 






Reviewed by

I'm a freelance entertainment writer with a degree in Journalism and 4+ years of experience. I'm currently a features writer for That Moment In, news writer for the nonprofit organization The Protego Foundation, and a contributor The Sartorial Geek, POMEmag, The Leaky Cauldron, and Screen Rant.

Synopsis

Grinza’s Orchard is the story of a Gypsy girl growing up in the early 1900’s in Romania and contains many authentic gypsy cultural rituals and life events. It also features a bit of magic and enchantment.

It is about Grinza’s life, her dreams, and her struggles to overcome such obstacles as finally achieving her life’s passion of having her very own cherry orchard, and then suddenly losing it; surviving repeated attempts by an unwanted suitor to hurt her; and the sacrifice she has to make to save her parents from devastating illness during the coldest winter on record in their village. The story follows Grinza, her husband Clopin, and their children’s lives in the small gypsy village of Cojasca. It is a feel-good story filled with laughter, magic and even some sadness.

You will fall in love with Grinza…

Laugh with her as she is willing to try anything to get rid of her freckles… cry with her as she gives up her greatest possession to save her parents… cheer for her as she reaches her lifelong dream… and follow her as she grows up, gets married and has children of her own.

Introduction


Gypsies have always been a fascinating people, and because they have been responsible for the spread of so much occult knowledge over so many centuries, they have often been called The Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries.

By 1887 it is estimated that there were over 200,000 gypsies living in Romania. Most had been slaves until their liberation in 1885. As a free people they wandered from town to town, trying to find a more permanent home, but were never welcomed or treated well by the local communities. They were viewed as outsiders and troublemakers. Often, they were forced to pitch their tents on the outskirts of the town. Because they were an unwelcome people, some created their own small villages, the largest of which was Cojasca located in Dambovita County. And it was in this small village, nestled below Moldoveanu Peak, the highest mountain peak in Romania, that in the year 1890 a daughter was born unto Cura and Danior Lovell.



The Lovells

 

The Lovells were quite poor and earned their meager income as fortune tellers. One of their few possessions was a very old crystal ball that had been in Cura’s family for many generations and been handed down from mother to daughter for hundreds of years.

Fortune telling, called dukkering was a woman’s role among the gypsies. Cura had watched her mother very closely over the years as she performed the fortune telling ritual, crouched over a crystal ball in the darkened tent they called home. She remembered that her mother called herself a clairvoyant.

When someone wanted their fortune to be told or had a specific question about the future, they would enter the tent, cross her mother’s palm with coins (in payment) and sit down in front of the rickety table on which rested the cloudy, almost eerie, ancient crystal ball.

Before the reading, her mom would have a brief conversation with the person, asking questions to get to know him or her better. As they chatted, her mother would brew a special herbal tea, allowing the aromatic vapors to flow throughout the tent. This had a very calming effect and made the reading a more spiritual experience.

When the aroma filled the tent, Cura’s mother would end the conversion and crouch her head quite close to the crystal ball. Her eyes would close for a minute or so, and then she would suddenly sit up straight in her chair and begin speaking, looking straight ahead, eyes wide open, staring as if in a trance.

Typically, she would start out by saying, “I see a great change coming into your life…” and then go on using the information she had garnered in their discussion to make predictions that she knew would make the client happy.

The first few times Cura herself had attempted dukkering she had been very nervous, but as she held more and more of these crystal ball readings, she gained confidence and became very good at it.

Cura and Danior were in their early thirties. They lived in a very old, two-room cabin. One room contained all their possessions including a bed, a small table, two chairs and an old chest of drawers that held their clothing. A small mirror hung on the wall nearest the only window in the home. The other, smaller, room was used for the fortune telling. This room’s only furniture was a small table on which sat the crystal ball and two chairs, one in front of the table and the other behind it. The room was purposely kept nearly dark, with only the light of a single candle illuminating the area when a reading was being done.

In the winter they burned logs in their fireplace for warmth, and in the summer, they had no relief at all from the excruciating heat. And it is on their bed, in this, their home, that their daughter, to whom they gave the name Grinza, was born on September 20th in the year 1890.

Grinza was a beautiful baby and even as a young child, Cura and Danior could see that she was very bright. This came as no surprise to them because, as spirit channelers, the Lovells, upon her birth, had divined upon Grinza the channels of wisdom and beauty. And it was obvious to all that this was a very special child.

Once Grinza was born, Danior realized that their cabin was too small for the three of them. With his experience in woodworking he was able to add an additional room with its own window, to the cabin. He also built a crib, a bed and a dresser so that when Grinza was old enough to be in a separate room, they would be ready.


For Grinza’s fifth birthday, her parents planted a cherry tree in their front yard and gave it to her as a birthday present, telling her that if she took care of it, the tree would provide her with delicious cherries for the rest of her life.

Grinza was so excited to have her own tree! “Dadus,” (as she called her father), “Dai,”, (as she called her mom), “I am so happy. I love you both.”

Grinza cherished that tree and was so proud, four years later, when it began to bloom and then produce fruit. Every year in late spring, the cherries would be ready and Grinza would pick them. There were so many cherries that Grinza would bring some to each of her friends and relatives. And she enjoyed how happy everyone was when they tasted their sweetness.


By the time Grinza was fourteen her cherry tree had fully matured and was producing the biggest, juiciest cherries in the whole village. She spent some time every day picking the ripest cherries and cleaning up the ground under the tree where a small number of leaves and cherries had fallen.

She was already aware of boys and found herself attracted to several in her village. In fact, one young man, Noah Hearne, told her he liked her, but she turned him down when he wanted to walk her home. There was something about him that just didn’t sit right with Grinza. Most of her friends were married by the time they were fifteen - marriages that had been arranged by their parents. She knew that her parents would soon pick a suitor for her, and she worried about whom that might be. She sure wouldn’t be happy if it was Noah.

Every day Grinza spent a minute looking at her reflection in the mirror by the window. “If only I was beautiful,” she thought, “maybe a more handsome man would want me.”


Although her parents often told her that she was beautiful, she didn’t really believe it. For one thing, Grinza had freckles and she was convinced that her freckles made her ugly. So, she would look in the mirror and wonder if it were possible to get rid of them.

Grinza had confided her concerns about her freckles to her best friend, Angelica Vladu. Angelica was a year older than Grinza and at fifteen years old, was nervous and excited about whom her parents might find as a suiter for her. She had heard them talking about it one night when they thought she was already asleep.

Angela and Grinza often sat under Grinza’s cherry tree and whispered about whom they might marry. One thing for sure – they both wanted strong, handsome husbands.

There was one young man named Clopin who had smiled at Grinza several times as they passed each other in the village and seemed like he wanted to approach her, but he was simply too shy. “Just as well.” thought Grinza, He would be handsome though, she thought if he, too, didn’t have so many freckles.

Grinza had heard that high up on the nearest mountain, their clan’s spiritual leader, the Guru Sylvanus, lived in isolation, only interacting with the clan when serious problems necessitated his involvement. It was said that his power was so great that he could do anything, grant any wish. It was also said that he observed everything going on in the village, even from a distance, and knew what lurked in each of the villager’s hearts. He knew who lived peaceful and meaningful lives and who had evil in their soul.

Grinza thought that she might go to the Guru and ask for his help in getting rid of her freckles, but no one was allowed to visit him without an invitation. She hated her freckles, but just didn’t know what to do.



About the author

Leonard Eckhaus is the founder of AFCOM, the leading association in the world for Data Center Managers; he created and published DCM, an award-winning magazine. He also co-founded LL Music, a music production company and record label and has received two Grammy nominations. view profile

Published on July 04, 2020

20000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Young Adult

Reviewed by

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