L. Oakley’s Timber Rose is set in the earliest years of the 20th century and follows the life and adventures of Caroline Symington, the daughter of a prominent family in Portland, Oregon. The year is 1907, and Caroline is unapologetically unconventional, preferring tramping and hiking in the wilderness to her family’s ideas of more ‘proper’ pursuits for a well-born young lady. Both her fondness for the outdoors and her complicated family relationships entwine with her adult life: she elopes with Bob Alford, a forest ranger in the North Cascade Mountains, and her malevolent uncle eventually darkens her life again, trying to make inroads into the national forest that has become her home.
Oakley does a skillful and confident job of weaving a good deal of historical material into her story of married life, from mountain-climbing to the women’s suffrage movement to the early days of ecological conservation. All of it is presented in an appealingly earthy, unpretentious prose style laced with wry humor and some memorable insights into human nature. Timber Rose is at times an openly sentimental tale, and it’s portrayal of Caroline’s slow awakening to love and happiness is genuinely memorable.