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The Treehouse Paperback – March 15, 2018
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About the Author
Randi Triant spent ten years as a documentary and medical education writer and producer before receiving her Master in Fine Arts in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in literary journals and magazines. Her first story, "Tequila Sunrise", was published under the pen name Berit Fortier in the seminal gay magazine, Christopher Street. After losing her best friend to AIDS, she published several short stories shedding light on the AIDS crisis. Her story "The Memorial" was included in the Third World Press anthology, Fingernails Across the Blackboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora and the short story "The Pecking Order" was chosen for an anthology published by Black Lawrence Press, Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U. She's taught writing at Emerson College and Boston College, and lives in Massachusetts. The Treehouse is her first novel.
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This perfect emotional storm sets the stage for a pageant gone bad starring colorful characters who are laugh-out-loud funny and who left me weeping. Insightful, sad, hilarious, and touching, The Treehouse is a gutsy romp toward redemption. I couldn’t put it down.
Camilla and her ex, Allison, were in a wildly unhealthy long-term relationship. Having a child, Nico, only exacerbated their issues, and Camilla fled. After two years without contact with Nico, Camilla decides to build a treehouse – a sawdust-and-nails symbol of her love – while Nico and Allison are out of town.
The story unfolds over two weeks: each chapter is a day in the saga. This framework sends the plot thrumming along with tension and suspense. Will Camilla finish the treehouse? Will Allison and Nico come home early and discover her? And who are these people who arrive, one after the next, to slow her down, speed her up, and divert her attention from the task at hand?
Triant’s masterful character development and sharp dialogue make us love her parade of misfits despite their (sometimes infuriating) flaws. They are smart, sarcastic, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Their help is often a hindrance, but we root for them to succeed. We hope that, together, they will figure out that what Camilla seeks isn’t redemption, it’s forgiveness. And she what she needs most is to forgive herself.
I can’t sum up what this book meant to me better than the final line of the book blurb for The Treehouse. If lesbian fiction hopes to be recognized by mainstream readers we need more dramatic, character driven novels like this.
On the surface the premise appears simple. Camilla Thompson is a humanities professor at a local college and a survivor of a long term relationship with a controlling, manipulative woman. Two years after her partner Allison gives birth to their son Nico, Camilla chooses to walk away from the son she adores thinking to spare him witnessing the emotional abuse she has suffered for years at the hands of Allison. No longer able to control every moment of Camilla’s life, Allison forbids Camilla from spending any time with their son.
During a week when she knows Allison and Nico will be away on vacation, Camilla takes it upon herself to build Nico a treehouse in his backyard. She has researched the construction techniques required but the task is challenging, made more so by her constant memories of her life with her ex-partner and son. Help with the project comes in unexpected ways but her damaged psyche and poor decision making skills work against her. I liked the idea of the treehouse construction as a metaphor for the stability and security Camilla hoped to provide for her son. In the process she finds people she can trust while discovering others she thought she could trust to be as controlling and manipulative as her ex.
This novel can be heavy going at times. Camilla spends a lot of time in her head, pondering the ways she has been used and abused by others. Abuse is not always physical. The author goes to great lengths to show the toll emotional abuse can take on an individual. There were moments when the time Camilla spends pondering her past stopped the flow of the story as others in a scene waited for Camilla to come back to the present, still indecisive but present. Camilla is a damaged soul trying to survive when her inner demons tell her she is not worth salvaging.
Back to treehouse construction as metaphor, it takes a strong support system to regain some sense of security and safety. Help comes from professionals, new friends and lovers and sometimes from estranged family members. How Camilla chooses to carry on with her life is left up to the reader to contemplate. I love it when a book pulls me out of my comfort zone and makes me question what I would do in Camilla’s shoes.
Well done and an author I will follow in the future.