"The US is fraught with trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become so deeply ingrained in our national psyche that we battle demons for which we've long since lost names. For some, PTSD is an inheritance. For others, it's a dowry. For most, it is unshakable. Jen Percy's debut, Demon Camp, reveals some of the US's demons, beginning with one trauma-survivor's story of how he brought the war he fought in Afghanistan home, internalized it, and then exorcised it. Through Caleb's struggle and recovery process, and through Percy's hesitant experience of Caleb's attempts to make sense of his trauma and recovery, readers begin to understand what PTSD is and what to do about it. This isn't another book romanticising war or vilifying soldiers: this book is a much-needed lifeline for all kinds of trauma-survivors and the people who love them." --Mel Morrow
In 2005 a Chinook helicopter carrying sixteen Special Ops soldiers crashed during a rescue mission in a remote part of Afghanistan, killing everyone on board.
In that instant, machine gunner Caleb Daniels loses his best friend, Kip Jacoby, and seven members of his unit. Back in the US, Caleb begins to see them everywhere—dead Kip, with his Alice in Wonderland tattoos, and the rest of them, their burned bodies watching him. But there is something else haunting Caleb, too—a presence he calls the Black Thing, or the Destroyer, a paralyzing horror that Caleb comes to believe is a demon.
There is an epidemic of suicide among veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who cannot cope with ordinary life in the aftermath of explosions and carnage. Jennifer Percy finds herself drawn to their stories, wanting to comprehend their experiences and pain.
Her research leads her to Caleb, who invites Percy to Portal, where he has been bringing damaged veterans to a Christian camp that promises deliverance from demons. As Percy spends time with these soldiers, exorcists and their followers—finding their beliefs both repellant and magnetic—she enters a world of fanaticism that is alternately terrifying and welcoming.
With a jagged lyricism reminiscent of novelists Daniel Woodrell and Denis Johnson, Demon Camp is the riveting true story of a veteran with PTSD seeking solace in people who profess to be exorcists, a writer who falls under his spell, and the larger story of the battles soldiers face after the war is over.
A mesmerizing blend of history, psychology, and reportage, Percy paints an unexpected and unforgettable portrait of the long lasting effects of war on our individual and national psyche and how people reconcile faith and trauma.
About the Author
Jennifer Percy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Capote Fellow and the recipient of an Iowa Arts fellowship from the Nonfiction Writing Program. Her honors also include a Pushcart Prize and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.