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The Inverted Forest

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  513 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Late on a warm summer night in rural Missouri, an elderly camp director hears a squeal of joyous 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 just two days. He fires them all. As a result, new counselors ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Scribner
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Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, august-read-list
Before I begin what is your IQ rating? Is it important? These categorizations are important in our hum drum of life especially to the walks of life who have had shall we say a less exterior normality for instance one character in this story Wyatt Huddy. He has a facial disfigurement and disorder from birth. The grave truth of us the human race is we label, point, snicker and gossip. We discriminate for race, for abilities and disabilities, appearance and size. In this case this gem of a story yo ...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five!
Original review posted at Layers of Thought.

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 summ
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You learn so much about the mentally and physically handicapped in this book. Wyatt is a young man who had been underestimated and bullied most of his life because of his condition called Apert Syndrome which skews his facial features, but there is nothing wrong with him otherwise. He takes a job at a summer camp as a counselor.
Through a series of mishaps, the capable and vetted counselors at this camp, for the mentally and physically disabled, are fired and a second string take charge. One of t
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing

The Inverted Forest is a magnificent piece of literature. It's beauty is the slow, detailed way the author takes with setting the story. The history of the camp, the beauty of the Ozarks, the life that Wyatt Huddy has lived. There isn't a lot of flash or excitement to The Inverted Forest. It is a story that is carefully plotted out and told with such precision. As a reader we know that something "shocking" is going to happen, and can even predict what is c
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, fiction
One of the best books I've read this year. Beautiful writing with original, deeply developed characters. Some of them are intriguing, some are heart breaking, some are endearing and some are down right evil, yet none of them are one note. The story appears to be about a young man who, having spent his entire life living down to the expectations others have of him, takes an opportunity to rise above that. However, as the book goes on, the reader discovers that it's not just Wyatt that wants to pr ...more
Anne Slater
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absorbing book. The author makes you _need_ to keep reading. It is the strangest story I have read in a long, long time. The four stars I awarded it are NOT because I "really liked" the book. I awarded them because the book is so well written, the characters so well drawn, and the interplay among the characters so honest.

A young man with a curious and unappealing deformity, from a family that is emotionally deformed, takes a job as a counsellor at a summer camp out in a forest. The fi
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Two days before the first session at the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp, the camp director fires his entire staff for participation in a lewd late-night pre-session celebration.

Enter Wyatt Huddy, genetically disfigured and trained by life to be pliant and agreeable, currently living in a back room of the Salvation Army. One of a dozen new camp counselors, brought in on the fly, Wyatt and his new colleages are quickly settled in and explained their duties, but not until the first buses of campers
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
I had a really hard time rating this book. In fact, I keep changing it. I want to give it 0 stars for the awkward perverted parts that made me feel so uncomfortable. I could have given it 4 stars for the non-awkward parts because I really enjoyed the plot idea. I almost put it down to not pick up again several times in the beginning because it was that awkward and unnecessarily perverted. I don't mind a book that makes you think, or pushes the boundaries, but this went way beyond that. In the en ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm sure I missed something in this book because the reviews are unanimously excellent, but I thought this was an awful read. I could barely stand to finish it. I didn't like the characters. Thought the entire premise was ridiculous. There were small mistakes that bugged me too. (Well, they might not have bothered me if had been enjoying the book, but I wasn't, so they did.) I'll continue to read the reviews and maybe a bolt of lightning will strike me and I'll see the error of my ways. But unti ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Don't read reviews. No review should be written. Just read the book. If it becomes too much, put it down. Otherwise, it is unfair to reveal a single element. I never stopped being surprised. Superb writing.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 1000-before-30
I work with developmentally disabled children and young adults so I'm quite partial to the subject, but I truly loved this book. It uses the word retarded a lot as opposed to its politically correct synonyms but it was otherwise a fabulous piece of literature and I'm so very glad I read it!
Oct 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Horribly stereotyped descriptions of people with disabilities. Only found 2 positive attributes ascribed to characters with disabilities in the entire book, and MANY negative stereotypes. Had to force myself to finish this one, because it was a book group read.
Bryan Basamanowicz
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While John Dalton, the famous, 19th century scientist is best known for his sharpening of elemental knowledge into atomic knowledge, John Dalton the novelist is perhaps most admired for the atomically keen precision with which he penetrates the depths of character identity. In his latest novel, The Inverted Forest, Dalton sets up his yarn-spinning laboratory at a week-long special session of a children's summer camp, where a motley rabble of inexperienced counselors are charged, unexpectedly, wi ...more
Angie Fehl
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
This story starts out in the summer of 1996, though I'm not sure why the author bothered -- there was nothing overtly '90s about the storyline. I'm guessing it was done to make sense of the present day ending maybe? What with the racism and despicable behavior towards the disadvantaged, I felt this story having a more early 1960s vibe.

From the synopsis, I was under the impression that the story was mostly supposed to follow the character Wyatt Huddy but it didn't feel like he played a huge role
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually, things and people are best known from the inside out. Outward appearances can lie or, at the least, bring misdirection.

The characters in John Dalton's "The Inverted Forest" during a life-changing two weeks at a 1996 summer camp in rural Missouri, reveal their essences, for better and for worse.

Shortly before a summer session is to begin, elderly camp director Schuller Kindermann is startled by what his young counselors are up to at Kindermann Forest Summer Camp. Kindermann discovers the
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Years ago I read John Dalton’s debut Heaven Lake, which I loved, so was excited to read this one (plus it had great reviews). This book was stark, yet stunning, and will stay with me a long time. It’s deceptive almost. It reads quietly, in a literary fashion, and then about halfway in you realize you’re holding your breath. At one point I was walking and reading this book (in a public area!), which is something I never do. I literally could not put it down, not a phrase I use lightly, if ever.

Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I really liked Dalton's first novel "Heaven Lake", so I was looking forward to his second book. When I read the front flap of the book with the description, I thought it sounded like a strange setting and story. And now I can report it was. The story takes place at a summer camp in Missouri. The camp director fires the staff right before the camp opens and has to quickly hire a new staff, and neither is prepared for the season. While the camp is for children, unbenownst to the new staff, the fir ...more
Jann Barber
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Don't judge a book by its cover.

A person who is lovely on the outside is not automatically lovely on the inside.


Wyatt Huddy has Apert Syndrome, which affects the shape of his head and facial features. Many, including Wyatt, feel that he also has diminished intelligence. He lives in a room at the Salvation Army, having been rescued from a horrible home situation by two kind men who gave him a job there and place to live.

In 1996, Wyatt is given the opportunity to be a counselor at a summer c
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
I liked the idea of this book. A summer camp, a couple nights before opening for the season the director has to fire most of the staff for skinny dipping. New group of counselors hired asap, unbeknowst to them the first weeek is for adult campers with challenging mental disabilities (I hope I'm using a politacally correct term). One of the counselors, while not mentally challenged, does have a disability that at first glance could put him in this category.

The plot was good and kept me going but
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was my first book by this author and it was surprisingly good. It's about a summer camp in Missouri. It begins with all the counselors getting fired before the first campers arrive, because they had a wild naked pool party with alcohol and craziness. The camp director hires in a rush, a new crew of counselors. Before any children arrive, they have a group of mentally disabled adults attend the camp for two weeks. The story rolls out from there. The character development is very good and the ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
There are beautiful things in this book and horrible things. Dalton does a wonderful job of hinting where another writer might force your nose into a scene. It could feel like he's too lightly tracing the story, but instead, it asks the reader to understand what is unsaid. And there's a lot unsaid.

The story line follows people at a summer camp in 1996, though by the feel of it, it could be 1966. That seems right, since the camp is sort of timeless. The camp director finds his entire staff of cou
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
I don't know what I was thinking when I went into this book--fun, summer camp memories; juicy camp gossip--but it certainly wasn't what I got. It took over 100 pages for me to get engaged in the story, and the only reason I kept going was because the reviews I'd seen suggested it was a really moving and engaging story. I figured it had to get better. By page 150 I realized I was mostly skimming, reading only a couple of words of each sentence. I forced myself to focus and engage in the story, bu ...more
Shaghayegh Modabberi
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
بهتراست بگویم که این یک نقد یا یک معرفی برای این رمان نیست. یک دردودل است.

«نه سرزمین هرز
كه بزرگ جنگلی واژگون
شاخ و برگهایش
همه در زیرزمین»

جنگل واژگون را دوبار خواندم.در یک روز...و مدتها گذشت که با یادآوری آن بغض نکنم و مدتهای بیشتری گذشت تا هر نیم ساعت یک بار به یادش نیفتم.شاید برای همه اینطور نباشد ولی برای من جنگل واژگون نه یک رمان که یک تراژدی برای تمام رویاهایی بود که از بچگی با آن هازندگی میکردم..
کورین من بودم.و همیشه هم میمانم.لحظه به لحظه حسش کردم آنقدر ملموس و آنقدر نزدیک بود که تمام کارها
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit
For the first 90 pages or so, I marveled at how engaged I was in this novel with no apparent plot or actual character development. Seriously, I was interested. It starts to coalesce into something though by the end of the book's first part, which is about 65-70% through. The second part, then, feels almost like an extended denouement. One of the best points in the novel for me is the Marcy Bittman storyline that takes place in 2011 in the book's second part. I also found interesting the case tha ...more
Jeffrey May
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An Upside Down Look At Humanity

“The Inverted Forest” is a curious and ultimately captivating narrative that challenges us as readers to accept our own inner humanity, despite our preconceived notions about beauty and intelligence.

While I felt that the story was not as cohesive as Dalton’s earlier novel, “Heaven Lake,” the high quality of his prose and his willingness to immerse himself into the challenging perceptions of his unusual main character, Wyatt, deserve praise. When Dalton drops Wyatt
Morninglight Mama
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Right from the opening, a sense of foreboding was apparent in this novel, and I felt a constant tingle of anticipation as I read... what was going to happen and when was it going to happen? It turned out that while I was waiting for one big BANG, things were slowly creeping toward it, and when it finally did occur, it was less surprising and yet still entirely shocking. That quiet dread lifts a bit in the shorter second portion of the novel, with a different tone taking over. Hope? Repentance? R ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Days before Kindermann Forest Summer Camp is set to open, the director discovers his counselors drinking alcohol and skinny-dipping, fires all of them, and must hurry to find replacements before the first wave of campers arrives.

One of those replacements is Wyatt, a young man with a genetic disfigurement; a gentle giant deeply concerned both that others will interpret his physical appearance as indicative of a mental disability, and that it actually is. Surprisingly when the campers arrive they
Jul 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Picked this up since I really enjoyed Dalton's first book, Heaven Lake. I also enjoyed this book, thought not as much as HL. The premise was interesting - summer camp counselors hired a few days before camp begins are surprised to learn they'll spend the first two weeks working with severely developmentally disabled (referred to as "retarded" in the book) adults before the kids arrive. Blossoming friendships, introspection, self-discovery, terrible management, personality clashes, and a horrifyi ...more
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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 ...more