Camp Damascus

Rose Darling is a high school senior who has lived her entire life in the small town of Neverton, Montana. She’s also grown up attending Kingdom of the Pine church with her parents. Kingdom of the Pine is a smaller church, compared to some others, but it has an international reputation for operating Camp Damascus, a gay conversion therapy operation with an astounding 100% success rate.

As Rose has gotten older, she has experienced some things that have left her with questions. A lot of questions. Like the fact that when she spends time with some of her girl friends, she experiences bone chilling cold flashes. Or the fact that while having dinner with her parents, she vomited up a plateful of living insects. Or the fact that near the time that both of these oddities occurred, Rose observed a strange woman standing nearby with her attention focused on Rose.

Rose is determined to discover why these things are happening to her. She also wants to know if she is the only one experiencing them. She will uncover the answers to her questions, but those answers cause Rose to question everything she believes.

In his first traditionally published novel, Chuck Tingle, a previously self-published author, illustrates why he became an internet sensation. Camp Damascus is a bit difficult to define. Is it a horror novel? Absolutely! It Is it a bit of social commentary? It is that too. Is it a compelling and balanced exploration of an individual’s crisis of faith? Yes, it is. It is also laugh out loud funny, insightful, and inclusive.

Tingle walks the razor thin line of highlighting many of the horrors experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community in the name of the gods of any number of religious belief systems, while simultaneously illustrating the breadth and depth of the diversity that exists amongst “true believers” and how supportive and engaging those communities can be when not actively enforcing a strict standard of “approved” ways of being on others.

Tingle’s characters are fascinating. This is especially true of Rose Darling, who is self-aware of her neurodivergence (but makes other discoveries about herself as the novel progresses). Sharp, insightful, funny, and doggedly inquisitive, Rose is the perfect person for readers to follow on her journey.

Throughout the novel, Tingle uses an increasing sense of unease and dread, as Rose attempts to uncover what is happening to her and why. The answers she finds are horrifying on a number of levels.

Camp Damascus is a marvelous debut and will leave readers wondering where Chuck Tingle will take them next. Read an interview with the author here.