Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Inverted Forest

John Dalton
The Inverted Forest

Scribner, 2011

1996. At summer camp in the U.S. state of Missouri for a few days before the opening several people fired. One night the owner of the camp Schuller Kindermann caught part of counselors: young boys and girls, swimming and running on the beach, were strip-naked. Kindermann, an old man, brought up as a Catholic, is experiencing shyness in front of the female, so he could not tolerate such behavior. Almost all of the junior staff was fired. The next day, Kinderman finds that for two days he is to find a replacement and hire a new staff, 14 new employees. Linda Rucker, director of summer camp, sends announcements, watches summary, and a new team is recruited. However, one feature has been withheld from the new staff: newcomers were promised that they will work in a camp with children, but the first two weeks in the camp there will be disabled, mentally retarded people.

Among the counselors is Wyatt Huddy, with a deformed face, too little retarded - or at least he has such an opinion. He works at the store, and when he’s given the opportunity to get out of town and try somewhere else, Wyatt gladly accepts the offer, supported by Captain Throckmorton, owner of the shop. Wyatt is put in the charge of a dorm 2. He must accompany guests to and from the dorm and at the evening to lay everyone in the bed and then his free time starts.

This novel is reminiscent of Philip Roth's recent novel Nemesis. Also summer, also a limited number of people, too, one day-event that changed life forever. Only Roth rose the theme of confrontation of God and a man, in this book this theme is not presented.

The book is written from a third person view, and the story comes from those three characters: Harriet, Kindermann and Wyatt. They all share a disability - everyone has their own - and some uncertainty. Harriet suffers because of her skin color, Wyatt from external deformities and in addition he is certain that he is mentally retarded, Kindermann - because of the tyranny and the lack of women next to him. Each of them in their own way blame themselves for what happened. Every one of them, looking back, sees their mistakes, ready to go back and change everything, but it is impossible to implement. Dalton picks the perfect tone: he does not let the reader inside the character, but not looks down on him. We empathize with the characters of the book, while being on the minimum distance from them.

Dalton, selecting the site of action as the camp, closed space with a limited number of participants, wins there as well. A small number of characters lets describe them in more detail, to give every background, choose to focus on specific scenes in the camp. Changing at the end of the book temporary layer and transferring to 15 years ahead, Dalton thereby allows himself and the reader to look at past events with cold eyes. Passions had subsided, but the ones whom the murder really changed do not forget about it ever.

Perhaps the book would be even better, if the author reduced the volume. There would be more dynamic and tension that the book sometimes lacks. Nevertheless, Dalton has written a serious book with memorable characters and authentic details.

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