The Blossom Festival


The Blossom Festival is a richly panoramic chronicle of rural life in the Santa Clara Valley during the decades before World War II. Against the lush backdrop of literally millions of fruit trees unfold the personal dramas of a fascinating cast of characters.

Young Harold Madison, taking a page from his own father’s book, seduces and abandons Betsy Moreberg, whose tyrannical father, a successful home builder, packs her off to bear her illegitimate child at a distance. The boy, Peter, returns when his mother agrees to marry Steen Denisen, an ambitious immigrant who wants Betsy’s father’s business as well as Betsy. Steen seeks nothing better than to bulldoze thousands of fruit trees to make way for new homes as little San Natoma becomes a bedroom community for San Jose, and the land-rich father of Olivia and Albin Roberts must sell prime orchards to keep his family afloat during the Depression.

Peter becomes fascinated with Olivia, who has always wanted to star in the annual Blossom Festival, the traditional spring pageant that heralds the new growing season. Olivia has befriended Fumiko Yamamoto, the nisei daughter of prosperous Japanese fruit growers. The rancorous politics of race and the palpable presence of the overseas war conspire to mar the Blossom Festival of 1940, however, and the friends will scatter, Fumiko’s family to a Japanese relocation camp.

This wonderful and leisurely read is an honest rendering of the complex relationships between parents and children in the changing context of a rich region of California that is leaving behind its agricultural past to become Silicon Valley.


Selected for the Western States Book Award in Fiction
Selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series.

The Blossom Festival is an old American story made new.  Coates knows the soil of Santa Clara Valley, he knows its history, and his tale shines a haunting light on the world we inhabit now.

—James D. Houston


Lawrence Coates' The Blossom Festival is a poignant, between-World-Wars mapping of a more Edenic Santa Clara Valley in northern California when the mechanistic intrusions in the garden still whistled and honked of promise and progress, sang of youth and love and spring, harvest of family and festival.


—Robert F. Gish

The judges were especially struck by The Blossom Festival's almost Hardyesque sense of fateful change, embodied in a seemingly permanent way of life that is in fact perishing ... the author has undertaken a large subject and handled it with the most unassuming skill and power.

—Judges’ Citation for the Western States Book Award


An “extraordinary first novel.”


—Contra Costa Times