"What makes The Deer Camp so memorable and engrossing is the wider environmental frame by which the author asks us to think about relationships. What brings the Kuiperses together, quite literally, is the acreage they return to year after year through which they engage with one another and the ground . . . The Deer Camp is a captivating exploration of what one can learn from the natural world, and our dependence on this knowledge for our own well-being." - Los Angeles Review of Books
"A soulful, elegantly written memoir of family strife and reconciliation." - Detroit News
“A frank, personal, and sometimes-painful account of Kuiper's fractured family . . . Lushly detailed and full of eco-devotion, this candid narrative has much to say about human beings bearing burdens, coping, and aiding one another.” Kirkus Reviews
"Honest and breathtakingly poetic." - Idaho Press Tribune
“Kuipers's gratifying narrative endearingly explores father-son relationships as well as the transformational power of nature.” Publishers Weekly
"A fascinating blend of the ecology of place and how one family, passionately devoted to nature but dysfunctional as human beings, came to a level of peace and maturity through their periodic trips to their deer camp in Western Michigan." - WSJM Radio
"[A] wonderful book . . . universal relateability is what makes reading [The Deer Camp] so fulfilling." - The Missoulian
“This is a resplendent celebration of childhood, an elegy for broken fathers, and a communion with immensities. Kuipers maps how a shattered family can wade into wilderness and be bound back together by water and sky. Reading this is like hearing animal songs at night. You can feel the pines in these pages, and know that a tree is growing where this book once stood.” Benjamin Busch, author of DUST TO DUST
“Kuipers has an extraordinary ear. With great acuity and insight he hears and interprets the voices of human family and ecological community. The forest and its people comes alive in his words. In beautiful prose, he uncovers and honors both the brokenness and the joy of our relationships with each other and the land.” David George Haskell, author of Burroughs Medalist THE SONG OF TREES and Pulitzer finalist THE FOREST UNSEEN
“The Deer Camp is an astonishing, impossible-to-put-down memoir that engages our largest conflicts-generational, psychological, global-with a rarified combination of rigor, grace, and levity. One of the most necessary books I've read in years.” Chris Dombrowski, author of BODY OF WATER
“In this poignant, honest memoir, Dean Kuipers guides readers through forests that feel both familiar and wild, in search of a family and a father he'd never known. The Deer Camp deftly navigates the deep and often complicated relationships between who we are and the places we love.” Caroline Van Hemert, author of THE SUN IS A COMPASS
“Wise, beautiful, honest writing about a landscape I love. - Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of MOTHERS TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS
Kuipers (Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness, 2009, etc.) returns with a frank, personal, and sometimes-painful account of his fractured family.
The author, who has written about environmental issues for decades, tells a grim but ultimately uplifting story about his family, mostly his father, a serial adulterer in his first marriage but a man whom his three sons loved (despite his dominant personality), a man who eventually, writes Kuipers, became a responsible adult. We learn about his father's history as well as his two brothers, one of whom has long battled psychological issues. We learn about the women in these men's lives (more than one divorce) and about their children. But the dominating, unifying factor in their experiences is hunting. Kuipers is quick to assure us—and show us—that they are not mere trophy hunters but rather ecological ones. They eat what they kill, and they kill, it seems, respectfully. (In one scene, the author speaks to a buck he has just shot.) The author's father believed that if he and his sons restored an old Michigan hunting camp he bought, it would improve their lives—and he was right. Year after year, they have planted, cultivated, and tenderly cared for the land, knowing that doing so would bring back the wildlife. Although the men often bickered and battled verbally with one another, they all eventually recognized the significance of what they created: unity and family. Kuipers alludes often to other writers and thinkers—from ecological scientists and eco-humanists to poets W.S. Merwin and Wendell Berry—and if he sometimes waxes a little spiritual/mystical, it is the magic of the land that animates him.
Lushly detailed and full of eco-devotion, this candid narrative has much to say about human beings bearing burdens, coping, and aiding one another.