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The Inverted Forestby John Dalton
Synopses & Reviews
Late on a warm summer night in rural Missouri, an elderly camp director hears a squeal of joyous female laughter and goes to investigate. At the camp swimming pool he comes upon a bewildering scene: his counselors stripped naked and engaged in a provocative celebration. The first camp session is set to start in just two days. He fires them all. As a result, new counselors must be quickly hired and brought to the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp.
One of them is Wyatt Huddy, a genetically disfigured young man who has been living in a Salvation Army facility. Gentle and diligent, large and imposing, Wyatt suffers a deep anxiety that his intelligence might be subnormal. All his life he’s been misjudged because of his irregular features. But while Wyatt is not worldly, he is also not an innocent. He has escaped a punishing home life with a reclusive and violent older sister.
Along with the other new counselors, Wyatt arrives expecting to care for children. To their astonishment, they learn that for the first two weeks of the camping season they will be responsible for 104 severely developmentally disabled adults, all of them wards of the state. For Wyatt it is a dilemma that turns his world inside out. Physically, he is indistinguishable from the state hospital campers he cares for. Inwardly, he would like to believe he is not of their tribe. Fortunately for Wyatt, there is a young woman on staff who understands his predicament better than he might have hoped.
At once the new counselors and disabled campers begin to reveal themselves. Most are well-intentioned; others unprepared. Some harbor dangerous inclinations. Among the campers is a perplexing array of ailments and appearances and behavior both tender and disturbing. To encounter them is to be reminded just how wide the possibilities are when one is describing human beings.
Soon Wyatt is called upon to prevent a terrible tragedy. In doing so, he commits an act whose repercussions will alter his own life and the lives of the other Kindermann Forest staff members for years to come.
Written with scrupulous fidelity to the strong passions running beneath the surface of camp life, The Inverted Forest is filled with yearning, desire, lust, banked hope, and unexpected devotion. This remarkable and audacious novel amply underscores Heaven Lake’s wide acclaim and confirms John Dalton’s rising prominence as a major American novelist.
"A failing summer camp forms the backdrop for Dalton's dark latest (after Heaven Lake), a layered consideration of what happens when intentions good and bad collide. Wyatt Huddy, a deformed but mentally intact young man, signs on as a short-notice replacement counselor at the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp in Ozarks country in 1996. To his and his fellow counselors' surprise, the camp's summer season begins by hosting a group of disabled adults from the state hospital. These campers bumble across the page as the central players are fleshed out — naive Wyatt, who keeps being mistaken for a camper; a well-drawn single-mother nurse named Harriet; the reactionary camp owner; a charming but sociopathic lifeguard; and a suspicious program director. As one of the staffer's nefarious plans comes to light, at least one terrible act looms with far-reaching consequences explored in the novel's second part, set 15 years in the future. Though there is tearing suspense surrounding the novel's central crime, and intelligent insight into the characters who surround it, a sense of imbalance persists, as if the crime, world-shaking though it is for some, is not quite convincingly set up. Nonetheless, this is a sensitive novel, richer in character than in plot. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Inverted Forest is a novel of immense insight and humanity by a writer whose prose can be exciting, tender, and unnervingly candid all at once. John Dalton's narrative proceeds with a grand inevitability, its resolution deeply satisfying and powerful. It has to be my Novel of the Year." Jim Crace, author of Being Dead and All That Follows
"The Inverted Forest is a magnificent novel, a true literary achievement that left me awestruck and breathless. It moves with a strange, eerie sense of dread, and it's full of suspense, but what impressed me most of all was the depth of John Dalton's insight into his characters. The chorus of narrators that make up this novel are drawn with such wisdom, compassion and kindness, the pages nearly seem to glow. I loved this book." Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
THE INVERTED FOREST traces a story of unlikely love and sudden violence in an isolated Midwestern camp.
About the Author
John Dalton was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of seven children. Upon graduation from college, he received a plane ticket to travel around the world, and so began an enduring interest in travel and foreign culture. During the late 1980s he lived in Taiwan for several years and traveled in Mainland China and other Asian countries. He attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop in the early 1990s and was awarded two fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown as well as a James Michener/Paul Engle Award for his novel-in-progress, Heaven Lake. He presently lives with his wife in North Carolina.
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