Review by Shellie for The Inverted Forest ~ by John Dalton
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth in their reading. This novel has an idyllic summer camp setting in the Ozark Mountains, where an unexpected tragedy is set in motion through a series of complicated events. It is a heart wrenching and insightful story that has a diverse and unusual set of characters.
About: When Wyatt Hudy is accepted as a camp counselor for the summer term at the Kinderman Forest Summer Camp at the very last minute, he believes he will be working with children. However, he has not been informed that for the first two week session he and the other new and impromptu counselors will be taking care of disabled adults that are wards of the state. A significant fact is that Wyatt could be mistaken for one of the campers due to a physical deformity he inherited at birth. As a series of seemingly unrelated events occur, there is an incredible build up a for a completely surprising and uncontrollable tragedy; and it does not stop there. What enfolds is at once heartbreaking yet understandable, leading the reader to think about areas that can be viewed as morally and legally ambiguous.
My Thoughts: This novel made me think and feel a great deal of unexpected emotions. The author's densely descriptive and beautifully accessible language helped me to believe that I was there in the mountains in this summer forest setting. But the best part is that the story includes developed, unusually flawed, complex and diverse characters. There are entirely unexpected personality aspects for the characters -counselors, staff, and the campers especially - creating a realistic and often shocking mix. One character could be even classified as the quintessential psychopath of the most insidious kind – one that charms and which most would not remotely suspect. With the questions that this novel will naturally create for its readers, I think The Inverted Forest will be perfect for discussions, though it may bring some heated conversations to the table.
I devoured every moment of the book, kept thinking about the characters, keep thinking about them still even weeks after finishing it. I enjoyed being immersed in the forest setting, one that most Americans will relate to and which is imbedded in our national psyche as a seasonal event – attending or counseling at a summer camp. This is a 4.5 stars and comes very highly recommended for contemporary fiction readers. For me it was the perfect summer setting and a powerful read. It almost made a rare five star status for me.
John Dalton is the author of the novel, Heaven Lake, winner of the Barnes and Noble 2004 Discover Award in fiction and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a member of the English faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he teaches in their MFA Writing Program. John lives with his wife and two daughters in St. Louis. http://www.daltonnovel.com/
Thanks for reading!