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The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, a Family, and the Land that Healed Them by Dean Kuipers

The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, a Family, and the Land that Healed Them

If this memoir isn’t a home run, it’s got to be at least a triple. It has wonderful nature writing, plus a study of the brokenness in a family, followed by its healing journey, and a glimpse of one dimension of the Christian Reformed Church. You might not recognize the CRC in this book, but this author’s take on it is revealing of his own experience. And the author’s love of nature and his ability to share his experiences are poetic and then some. 

The Kuipers family is West Michigan Dutch CRC, and it is in pain. A father’s high-control style of parenting and lack of moral character destroy his marriage and damage his three boys. Somehow, the father and sons hang on to each other through all the destructive ways they relate to each other. Somehow—I might like to say by the grace of God, but God’s grace is not part of this author’s story—they keep doggedly trying to relate—mostly about hunting experiences and the dreams they have for the acres of field and forest their Dad buys and obsesses about.

Dean Kuipers' spirituality is mostly expressed in his experiences with nature, with natural beauty, with creatures that inhabit the woods and fields, and in his vivid experiences of the sentience and coherence of all of nature. His descriptions of what he sees, and his love of all the beauty that’s out there, and what he experiences as he sits in his deer blind, is expressed in fine and delightful prose. The brokenness of the family relationships is in painful contrast, but gradually a sort of healing miracle begins to happen at about the middle of the book. The boys, now grown, begin to experience a changed relationship with their father, and their father begins to soften in his willingness to listen to them and value their ideas about how to restore the health of the land. As they engage together in the project of healing the land, their relationships begin to heal. Kuipers’ writing itself is healing, and the book brought me with it through pain to beauty and to healing. It was painful to see how very little of that healing the church contributed to their lives. (Bloomsbury)

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