A novel with the word “treehouse” in the title doesn’t seem as if it would be about life changes and making important decisions. On the other hand, that word does imply family and fun. Catherine Drake’s debut novel, “The Treehouse on Dog River Road,” brings us an intrepid main character who spent two years in Kenya building houses. Then she got a job in finance. Now she’s wondering what she wants to do in life. And when you are in your late twenties, and you don’t know what you want to do in life, sometimes spending a summer taking care of family is just what is needed to clear your head. At least, that’s what Hannah Spencer is hoping when she agrees to take care of her young niece and nephew for several months when her sister Molly and Molly’s husband, both college professors, have an opportunity to travel to South America to do research. Hannah had managed to get laid off from her very unsatisfying job with enough of a severance package that she can figure out what she wants to do next and where she wants to do it, and she has all summer to figure it all out.
Living in Boston wasn’t fulfilling, and Hannah is thinking of Colorado or someplace else out west. She wants a job that is about helping the world rather than making money, and she’s looking for adventure. She actually finds more adventure than she expected in her sister’s Vermont town. Right next door, in fact. Nathan has just moved next door and after a few initial misunderstandings, they find that there is a definite attraction.
Hannah is also working hard to build a fabulous treehouse for Nora and Owen, her two charges, and that is almost a full-time job. Between her vision board to help her create a future that will be perfect, building the treehouse, starting a romance with Nathan, and learning how to care for two precocious kids, Hannah’s summer is filled with activity, family, love, and adventure.
But when career choices don’t seem to line up with her new relationship, what will Hannah do? Debut author Catherine Drake manages to incorporate many topics that are obviously near and dear to her heart as she demonstrates Hannah’s passion for helping others and her desire to leave the earth a better place. She’s willing to take less pay in order to have a meaningful job, and she craves somewhere where there will be a work/life balance. Instead of slaving away at a desk all day, Hannah is determined to have a job in which her off time can be spent in nature or with loved ones.
And while she envies her sister and her brother-in-law their closely knit family and wants the same for herself, she also is trying to determine her next steps. It has seemed to her that for her whole life, next steps were just there, determined by others, and this time Hannah wants to be in control of her destiny. But what exactly does that look like?
This novel is touching and sweet. Drake brings to life the beauty of Vermont while also highlighting the dangers of living there when hurricanes strike. It’s about living life to its fullest while still helping others and being a productive member of a community. Nathan has a job in IT but relishes spending time outside with his dog, working in his yard, and being a member of an emergency response team to help others in times of need. We know that Hannah and Nathan are meant for each other, but will Hannah herself realize that reality in time to build the best possible future for herself — and Nathan?
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by She Writes Press, the publisher, for review purposes.