The Inverted Forest

A Novel

The Inverted Forest

This “gripping, tender, and at times disturbing tale” (Entertainment Weekly) of unlikely devotion and sudden violence in an isolated Midwestern summer camp is a compelling follow up to the award-winning Heaven’s Lake.

From the prizewinning author of Heaven Lake comes an extraordinary story of unlikely devotion and sudden crisis in an isolated summer camp.

Late on a warm summer night in rural Missouri, an elderly camp director hears a squeal of 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 two days. He fires them all. As a result, new counselors must be hired and brought to 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, Wyatt suffers a deep anxiety that his intelligence might be subnormal. 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 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 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.

The Inverted Forest is filled with yearning, desire, lust, banked hope, and unexpected devotion. This remarkable novel confirms John Dalton’s rising prominence as a major American novelist.
  • Scribner | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416596035 | 
  • July 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Inverted Forest includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

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 see more

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Heaven Lake

About the Author

John Dalton
Photo Credit: Thumawadee Sarubut

John Dalton

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.

 

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