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Tree Soldier Paperback – March 29, 2011
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Customers who bought this item also bought
... in this boisterous blend of mystery, romance and American economic history... its disparatethreads of mysterious past and romantic present are tied up with anemotionally satisfying resolution.
~ PW May 2014 (ABNA quarter finalist)
...the characters are complicated andconvincing, and the overall narrative is solid, providing a nicebalance of macho rough-and-tumble, romance, and period detail. I'malways glad to see more Northwest-based fiction, and "TreeSoldier" is well worth reading.
~Barbara Lloyd McMicheal for theBellingham Herald, December 26,2011
Oakley constructs this rugged romance with tremendous care, fully developing its characters, particularly the honorable Hardesty, and building moments of tension in an engaging and entertaining novel.
~PW Select January 2012
In this action-packed, emotionally charged historical novel titled Tree Soldier, J.L. Oakley takes us back to the era of the Great Depression. Tree Soldier will draw you in and keep you turning the pages. Tree Soldier won Chanticleer Book Reviews Blue Ribbon Award of Grand Prize in our Published Novels Contest 2012.
~ Chanticleer Book Reviews
A man running from his past, a woman too independent for her era, amanblinded by jealousy, and a rowdy cast of streetwiseDepression-eraCivilian Conservation Corps teenage boys coalesce inthis boisterousblend of mystery, romance and - though not quiterealized enough -American economic history... its disparatethreads of mysterious past and romantic present are tied up with anemotionally satisfying resolution.~ PW May 2014
From the Author
My 96 year-old Mom is a native of Idaho and during the summers she often went up to her Uncle Lawrence's ranch in Lowman just north of Boise. One summer around 1933 a Civilian Conservation Corps camp appeared about a mile away. Some 200 young men were there working on projects. Some were from New Jersey. Years later when I had to write a term paper for a history class, her stories came back. I began to explore CCC projects around my county in Western Washington. A story of a young man from back East who is running away from a past mistake began to form.
The CCC is responsible for some of the most beautiful structures, campgrounds and parks on both side of the North Cascade Mountains and the whole Pacific Northwest for that matter. The young men, working in squads of 6-9 men, also planted trees, built roads and bridges, backpacked fish into remote lakes, and did reclamation work, including dams. In Whatcom County where I live, they built the Glacier ranger station, Silver Fir and Douglas Fir Campgrounds and the Warming Hut up at Mount Baker.
The program was responsible for saving the lives of countless families for while the boys worked, $25.00 out of the $30.00 they earned when to their families. That was a lot of money back then. The CCC trained the young men in forestry and wood craft, provided after hours schooling, and taught them to work as teams. In the end they tackled some of the worst environmental problems caused by soil erosion and over-logging. Many have said the environmental movement started with the CCCs.
I have had the great privilege of meeting and talking the real tree soldiers. Sadly, they are all passing away, but their stories of getting on during very hard times have touched me. At my first book talk for Tree Soldier at the Whatcom Museum, a gentleman came up to me and told me about how people were literally starving in a rich farming area in my community. His mother put together food for some of these families. He remembers hearing his parents talk about so and so going into the CCCs and how that money coming home saved the family.
I have written about Norway in WW II, 1860s Pacific NW, and the prequel to Tree Soldier set in the same area in 1906 around the birth of the Forest Service, but this stories of these CC boys will always stay with me.
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Top customer reviews
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Janet Oakley has pulled off a real feat of historical fiction--she's recreated a slice of life in the Civilian Conservation Corps--that last hope for out-of-work men, victims of the greed and horror of the Great Depression--and lets us see into that distant past with clarity and understanding. We see that what drives characters in the past is what drives them now--love, peace, work, family.
In Park Hardesty, Ms Oakley brings to life one of those hard men. Guilt ridden with a secret past, Hardesty does what all those men had to do--he survives. In Kate Allford, her female lead, Oakley draws the antecedents of those independent women who fought for Women's Rights and the right to a life of their own. For all of the political subtext driving it, The Tree Soldier is a first class love story. Along the way we meet villains galore, experience love at first sight, watch liars become heroes, and heroes fall, only to come back with fire in their eyes. In The Tree Soldier, Ms Oakley creates the hidden desire of all novelists--a microcosm of the human condition.
The details of life in the CCC show Ms Oakley's historical research in such lines as this:
"Stealing was the worst offense at a spike camp. Running a gauntlet and getting hit below the waist by belts was the prescribed punishment. Hardesty had seen the sentence carried out in several different places, and generally, there wasn't a stealing problem ever again from that person."
And Kate, alone in her fire spotting station tells us: "A fire, she knew, had a way of sleeping, getting underneath the duff where it wasn't seen, then coming out some other area unexpected. Lightning could strike a tree deep inside, then come out days later and really go to town. She spotted nothing else, however, and towards evening, she was informed..."
But it's the love story that drives this narrative when Kate and Hardesty realize the fullness of their passion: "The world's definitely at our feet and we're free." They stood at the windows a long time watching the shadows of the moon slip across the landscape below. Then, finally, they could not ignore each other anymore and blowing the lantern out, went to explore the thing called making love again on her bed."
This is a fine first novel. Instructive, passionate, and realistic. Buy it, read it, review it.
I won't delve into the plot--it's been done here on reviews already.
Everything about this story worked. Everything! The hard life of the CCC members was well-written. I had no idea. My husband, children and I have stayed in rustic CCC-built cabins at a state park nearby. I will never look at them the same.
This is one of those books that leaves you feeling a let down when it's over, and a little lost that you have to join the real world again.
Small spoiler alert; The ending is so incredibly good, though quite bittersweet. I did shed a few tears.