The Goodenough family faces many internal conflicts, as well as external conflicts as the Black Swamp of Ohio tries its hardest to work against them. The only thing the Goodenoughs seem to truly succeed at is planting, grafting, and harvesting 50 apple trees in their swampy territory. The apple trees bring more joy to the father, James, than his own family does. And the only reason why the mother, Sadie, puts up with the apples is that she can make applejack from them. The children have to deal with the repercussions of an irresponsible mom and a distant dad whose dislike for each other grows stronger. Soon, Robert Goodenough finds himself breaking away from his family, planting his feet in gold rush California. However, the conflicts he faced were never fully resolved, and his past still follows him, many years later.
At the Edge of the Orchard begins depressing and troublesome, but slowly changes in tone to more peaceful and resolved over the course of events. Very well-researched, from the different kinds of trees to the history of apples and people. Sadness and hard times reflected on the pioneer days of America, but joy is also prevalent, telling of the successes that made frontier life easier.