Synopses & Reviews
In 2005 a Chinook helicopter carrying sixteen Special Ops soldiers crashed during a rescue mission in a remote part of Afghanistan, killing everyone on board.
In that instant, machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost his best friend, Kip Jacoby, and seven members of his unit. Back in the US, Caleb begins to see them everywhere—dead Kip, with his Alice in Wonderland tattoos, and the rest of them, their burned bodies watching him. But there is something else haunting Caleb, too—a presence he calls the Black Thing, or the Destroyer, a paralyzing horror that Caleb comes to believe is a demon.
Alone with these apparitions, Caleb considers killing himself. There is an epidemic of suicide among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder who cannot cope with ordinary life in the aftermath of explosions and carnage. Jennifer Percy finds herself drawn to their stories, wanting to comprehend their experiences and pain.
Her subject, Caleb, has been bringing damaged veterans to a Christian exorcism camp in Georgia that promises them deliverance from the war. As Percy spends time with these soldiers and exorcists and their followers—finding their beliefs both repellant and magnetic—she enters a world of fanaticism that is alternately terrifying and welcoming.
With a jagged lyricism reminiscent of Michael Herr and Denis Johnson, Demon Camp is the riveting true story of a veteran with PTSD and an exploration of the battles soldiers face after the war is over. Percy’s riveting account forces us to gaze upon the true human consequences of the War on Terror.
"Tropes surrounding veterans in the public discourse invincible warriors, heroic patriots mask the reality of warfare, but Percy peels back the gauze, revealing deeply wounded individuals. Having enlisted to escape hometown oppression or untenably low positions on the socioeconomic ladder, veterans return haunted by the violence they've endured. Caleb, Percy's primary subject, is besieged by apparitions after his closest friend dies in a helicopter crash, and comes to rely on his hallucinations to get him through the day. An army psychologist explains that sufferers of PTSD will relive their trauma 'again and again until the mind is able to assimilate and process the event,' experiencing a world of demons more real than physical objects. Caleb and other veterans are drawn to tiny Portal, Ga., where a self-taught pastor engages in 'spiritual warfare,' claiming he stopped counting the number of exorcisms he's performed after 5,000. Percy becomes part of the life of the church, where the veterans and the true believers maintain a measure of distance, treating each other with a mutual wariness. Her sharp, unadorned writing captures the rawness of the congregants' lives, the permeability of the borderline between reality and imagination her own exorcism proving to her 'how easily, how intrusively, a heightened situation can make us, any of us, slip.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A riveting work of immersive nonfiction by a young, award-winning writer that begins with the story of a charismatic man--a Special Ops soldier who believes his PTSD is caused by demons--but becomes about the author's obsession with the strange and mesmerizing world she encounters.
About the Author
Jen Percy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a Truman Capote Fellowship in fiction. She also received an Iowa Arts Fellowship from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. Winner of a Pushcart Prize and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, her work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Harper’s, The New Republic, and The Oxford American. She teaches writing at New York University.