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THE INVERTED FOREST by John Dalton Kirkus Star


by John Dalton

Pub Date: July 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9602-8
Publisher: Scribner

An odd, absorbing follow-up to an award-winning debut distinguishes crucial degrees of humanity and affliction among the community at a Missouri summer camp where a convergence of staff and campers leads to tragedy.

In a patient display of skill, Dalton (Heaven Lake, 2004) delivers an original drama set at Kindermann Forest Summer Camp in the Ozarks, owned and managed by Schuller Kindermann, whose idiosyncratic standards and wholesale dismissal of the 1996 camp counselors set events in train. Hastily hiring a new crew, including Wyatt Huddy, 23 and suffering from a facial deformity indicating Apert syndrome, Schuller omits to tell his replacement team that for the first two weeks the camp will be filled not by children but handicapped adults from the local hospital. With measured pace Dalton depicts the impact of coping with 104 variously disturbed patients on the under-equipped counselors and staff, including Christopher Waterhouse, a seemingly charming but possibly flawed counselor. When camp nurse Harriet Foster realizes Christopher’s true nature she calls on Wyatt for help, an action that will have consequences down the decades. Dalton’s expert control of his material is impressive. His conclusion, set 15 years later, tenderly resolves both the moral and personal aspects of the story.

Dealing carefully with controversial material, this is a fully populated, humane yet largely unsentimental narrative of lingering impact.