The Inverted Forest
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.
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The Inverted Forest
Read an Excerpt
A night breeze lifted the dark skirts of the forest. The usual riot of insects fell quiet. Into the well of this new silence came a sudden peal of laughter—a bark of laughter, exuberant, righteous, feminine.
The sound of it at 2:16 A.M.: half raucous cheer, half squeal of delight, borne like a tumbling feather across the wide, night-screened meadow of Kindermann Forest Summer Camp.
On the opposite side of the meadow, in a one-room cedar cottage joined to the camp office, Schuller Kindermann looked up from his drafting table.
He considered...see more
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Reading Group Guide
The Inverted Forest begins in the summer of 1996 at the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp in rural Missouri. The elderly camp director finds his counselors swimming naked two days before camp is set to open and fires all of them. A whole new staff must be hired. One of them is Wyatt Huddy, a genetically disfigured young man who has been living in a Salvation Army facility. Wyatt is diligent and reliable, gentle and large. All of his life he’s been misjudged because of his appearance. As a result, he harbors a deep uncertainty that he might not be as intelligent as other young men and women his age.
Wyatt arrives at Kindermann Forest with a dozen other newly hired counselors. They are bewildered to 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. In this world away from the world, the new counselors and the State Hospital campers begin to reveal themselves. Fortunately, Wyatt has an unexpected ally in the camp nurse, Harriet Foster. see more