The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

by Kim Fu


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544098268
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/13/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 834,183
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

KIM FU is the author of the novel For Today I Am a Boy, which won the Edmund White Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Lambda Literary Award, and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Fu is also the author of the poetry collection How Festive the Ambulance. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

The girls stood on the dock and sang the camp song, “Camp Forevermore.” They sang in voices at worst bored or dutiful, but more often thrilled, chests swelling with unity and conviction, that feeling of being part of something larger than themselves, their brash, off-key voices combined into one grand instrument: “And I shall love my sisters/for-ev-er-more.” In 1994, the song had echoed out over the Pacific Ocean for six decades.

They stood straight-backed and solemn-faced as soldiers in formation, even the ones who itched to squirm, to collapse into their natural, slumped posture, who were rolling their toes in their shoes and humming to themselves, squeezing their lips in their fingers to suppress a bubble of nervous laughter. Counselors dragged plastic bins of orange life jackets from one of the storehouses adjacent to the dock. The life jackets varied in size and some had broken buckles and split seams. The girls picked through to find intact jackets that fit, the process both hurried and cautious, drawing attention to their newly divergent bodies.

Ten-year-old Siobhan Dougherty snatched one and slid her arms through the holes. Would it reveal her to be too tall, too wide, too infantile, anything other than the universal girl-size implied by the unsorted bins? She fumbled to adjust the buckles and lengthen the straps, her fingers cold and stiff, until finally the jacket clicked shut. Satisfying clicks echoed up and down the dock. By some miracle, no one was left behind.

Two days earlier, Siobhan had stepped through the wooden gates of Camp Forevermore for the first time. The group of low log buildings in a man-made clearing, at the nexus of forest and sea, looked just the way it had in the brochure.

Upper-middle-class girls (and, as of 1976, a small group of need-based essay-contest winners) from up and down the northwest coast of North America, including both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, were sent to Forevermore, the name meant, like its religious and pseudo–Native American competitors, to project ancient knowledge. Nine-to-eleven-year-old girls would leave home fretful and finicky and return as capable, knowledgeable outdoorswomen, remade in the wholesomeness of woods and sisterhood. The best of its kind, crowed the brochure.

Siobhan wanted to be more like the heroines of the books she liked, about girl detectives and girl adventurers: tomboyish, scrappy, and resourceful, able to outsmart adults and survive without them, her body sun-brown and waiflike. She was, instead, a freckled, blue-eyed redhead, pale and dense as a block of shortening, who wasn’t allowed to use the stove. The one time she’d been left alone at home after dark, she’d turned on all the lamps, the TV, and the stereo, needing a protective shell of voices and light.

Above all, she was looking forward to the kayaking trip, the central adventure of the first week. In small groups, the girls would kayak to a remote island and camp overnight. The brochure had stressed to parents that the overnight would build character and an appreciation of the outdoors within safe boundaries, but none of the pictures had adults in them. Just the campers, posing in their kayaks with their paddles triumphantly raised. Carrying firewood and military-style duffel bags in their twiggy arms, holding hands and jumping into the ocean. Bearing bold smiles of uneven teeth and no-nonsense braids and ponytails, these were girl pirates, girl spaceship captains, warrior princesses—the thrilling, independent societies of children that had existed only in Siobhan’s books.

Even on that first, clear afternoon, the dark earth between the gravel paths and the deep green of towering pine, fir, and spruce trees contained the memory of recent snow and rain. The ocean at the far end of the camp was the color of slate.

Everything Siobhan was wearing was brand new: a black fleece she’d chosen for its silver heart-shaped zipper pull, her first pair of hiking boots, even her underwear. She felt a thrilling, terrifying dissolution of self. She was far from her parents, her classmates, anyone who had ever known her. She was curious to find out who she would be.

The first day passed in a blur. The girls were shuffled from place to place, given a lecture and a quick meal, hurried to an early bedtime and an awkward silence in the cabins with their counselor-chaperones. The morning of the second day, they faced a swimming test, shivering and exposed as they eyed one another on the dock, then timed as they swam for fifty meters parallel to the shore.

In sporty Speedo one-pieces, in childish frills and sea-creature patterns, the girls first noticed Dina Chang, a nine-year-old from Vancouver Island. There was nothing precisely remarkable about her appearance, her wholly prepubescent chest and legs and golden-brown skin in a black-and-white two-piece, but they could not keep their eyes off of her. Her every movement was magnetic. Girls brought her tied-together daisies, plastic bracelets, and toys they’d brought from home. Someone offered her the carton of chocolate milk from her morning snack. Dina shrugged and twirled a strand of her glossy black hair, like the attention was nothing new, no big deal.

During one of the swim tests, the girls’ conversations trailed off as one by one they stopped talking to watch. The girl in the water was struggling. She kept stopping to tread and change strokes, from a frantic, ineffectual crawl—kicking up geysers of water without gaining any forward momentum—to a pathetic-looking doggie paddle, fighting to keep her head up, a tangle of dirty-blond hair plastered across her face. Andee Allen was ten years old and from Seattle, Washington. “One of the scholarship girls,” someone stage-whispered. One of the girls they should feel sorry for and be extra kind to.

As the minutes ticked by and Andee continued to flounder in the water, the girls turned their attention to the counselors administering the test, particularly the one holding a stopwatch. They hadn’t failed anyone, no matter how slow or poor her technique, as long as the camper could cross the distance somehow. But surely this was too much, and any minute now, they would jump in and tow or carry Andee to shore, and she wouldn’t be allowed on the kayak trip.

The adults looked transfixed by Andee. When Andee finally swam a little closer, Siobhan could see why: the determined set of her mouth, the ferocity in her eyes. How much she wanted to finish. She would finish, no matter what. It would be cruel to stop her. And more to the point, if they ever were stranded in the ocean, Andee—who had been in the water for what felt like an eternity—would be the last to go down.

When Andee’s hand slapped the far pillar of the dock, the counselors cheered. Two of them reached in and pulled her out by her forearms and the back of her swimsuit. Andee lay gasping on the planks like a fish in the open air.

They had kayak lessons for the rest of the day, their first tangle with the life jackets. At the outset, their neon-green kayaks crowded the shallows of the beach, knocking against one another like rubber ducks let loose in a bathtub. By late afternoon, each girl could escape a rollover, do a forward paddle stroke, and self-propel in a straight line.

At dinner, Siobhan was among the girls assigned to set the tables. Nita Prithi—eleven years old, from a midsize town in central California, in her third and final year at Forevermore—bossily led the group around, making the expansive gestures of a magician’s assistant. “Here’s where the forks and spoons are. Here are the cups. Here are the pitchers for water,” she said. Nita was intimidating-looking, broad-shouldered with a heavy, clomping step, an oversize sweatshirt pulled down over early breasts, a wide mouth, and dark, expressive eyebrows.

Another group of girls carried the steamer trays of food from the kitchen.

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The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
bookwomen37 More than 1 year ago
This was only an OK read for me. I enjoyed parts of the book. The premise is about a group of girls away at summer camp. On an overnight kayak trip they become stranded and have to survive. There are alternating chapters of what happens when the girls grow up. Most of these chapters are pretty weak and the author does not really connect the stories or the girls. The ending was very unsatisfying. The writing was good but the story line should have been better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Camp Forevermore in just a few hours, breaking only for dinner. It was my second time starting it. I picked it up in December, read a couple chapters and thought 'I like this but I think if I'm actually in the mood for it I'm going to love it' and then resolved to restart it later. So that's what I did. I have a decent memory of what happened in those chapters and I was excited to reread them. They didn't disappoint, and like I had assumed, I enjoyed them even more on the second go. Kim Fu has a gift for creating fully-fleshed out characters in a short space of time. By the time I finished this book, I cared so deeply about these girls - especially Nita and Isabel - that not even ten minutes afterward I just started sobbing. There was so much leftover emotion, and just general sadness and a desire for them to be okay. So I guess I should give some sort of rundown as to what actually happens? We open in a summer camp for girls aged 9-11, Camp Forevermore. On the day of a big kayak trip, five girls from different areas of the US and Canada are put in a group and then a life-altering something happens. Leaving the first chapter, we don't know exactly what happens on this kayak/camping trip, and the story itself unfolds in alternating chapters. First come Camp Forevermore chapters wherein we begin to slowly piece the entire incident together, followed by chapters where we follow the girls as they become women, seeing how their lives have been impacted after the fact. Because of this setup, this isn't the most straightforward narrative, but that didn't bother me. I have a sort of weakness for well-crafted vignettes strung together loosely (see: Winesburg, Ohio and The Illustrated Man) and Kim Fu's prose enveloped me fully. As I read tragedy strike these women often again and again, I was devastated. Even clicking through pages I bookmarked just now made me tear up again! As always happens with books I loved, I can't talk about this properly. I'm simply not able to translate the raw, emotional journey I went on with these girls into words. I hope others are able to review this more coherently, to convince others to pick it up. All I can say now is I think these women's lives are some that will stay with me for a while. tw: rape, instances of abuse
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu is a highly recommended collection of stories that are interlinked into a novel. Camp Forevermore is a sleep-away camp for girls between the ages of nine and 11 that is located in the Pacific Northwest. In 1994 a traumatic event transformed the lives of the five girls involved. The girls, Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan, set off with a seasoned counselor on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. When they make the trip in a good time, the counselor proposes they paddle on to a big island. It is on this island that the girls are faced with questions and dilemmas that will influence their adult lives. The novel jumps back and forth in time from the fateful camp experience in 1994 to the lives of the individual girls. The individual stories cover the background of the girls and follow their lives to the present day. You can see where the camp experience altered their present day lives, sometimes in a dramatic fashion. It is also clear that time changes the memories of some of the girls. The harrowing events from 1994 made an indelible mark on all of their psyches, however, the effect the incident had on some of the girls was much more daunting than it was for others. None of them were left unchanged. This novel really is a series of interlinked short stories. The chapters connecting it all are short parts of the progression of what happened to all of them in 1994. The longer chapters in-between are the stories of their individual lives. Essentially this changes the focus from 1994 and the group of girls at camp to adults who all experienced the camp event years ago. It is an interesting choice of focus, and each girl's story is told in a slightly different way, in a different angle, which seems appropriate considering the girls and their backgrounds are so different. There is no doubt about Fu's talent as a writer. The novel I read was not the novel I was expecting, but I enjoyed what she gave me enormously. I became immersed in their stories as adults, while waiting to discover exactly what happened to then as children. She writes about the girls and then women in a truthful, honest way. Yes, some of the stories and events do seem predictable, but that could be because they reflect the actual lives of women so closely. Tragedy is often woven into formative stories and so it is here. I do wish more was said of Siobhan and her life. I did want to know more of her thoughts as an adult since she figured so prominently in the 1994 passages. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
miss_mesmerized More than 1 year ago
A summer camp for young girls aged nine to twelve. Mostly rich, but there are also some poor ones granted scholarships so that they can take part, too. The rules have been the same over decades, everything in Camp Forevermore is as it has always been. Part of the camp experience is a kayak tour which the girls complete in small groups and which leaves them on isolated islands for a night. Siobhan, Nita, Andee, Isabel and Dina thus are assigned to the oldest and toughest camp supervisor. Yet, unexpectedly, the girls do not end in the spot they were destined to but find themselves on a different, much larger and completely isolated island, their chaperone dead and they themselves running out of food. Now, the real survival lesson begins. The idea of a bunch of girls having to face raw nature and survive in unknown territory sounded quite intriguing to me. I anticipated it to be a bit like a girl version of the “Lord of the Flies” and I was curious to read how a group of girls develops under those conditions. Yet, the story of the lost girls is just a part of the novel. Their adventure is broken up by narrations about what happens to the girls later in life, their fate after surviving Camp Forevermore. This not only came a bit unexpected, but also shifted the focus away from the actual story to what such an experience makes with people and how they can never really get over it. Kim Fu has a very lively style of writing. The characters seem authentic and you quickly get a good idea of their different personalities. I liked her writing most in the parts where the girls struggle to survive, she is great at portraying their fears, hate and desperation. Without any question, the girls’ later lives are also interesting and the author actually did a great job in developing the girls further as adults. However, I would have preferred to read more about Camp Forevermore and the girls desperate situation.