Celebrated as the “Indiana Jones of American literature,” legendary author Paul Theroux has explored the world and shared his vision of it in more than 50 books of bestselling fiction and nonfiction.
In Camp Echo, his new novella for Scribd Originals, Theroux delivers a compelling coming-of-age story about racism, masculinity, morality, and leadership. Inspired by his own experiences as a Boy Scout in the early 1950s, Theroux writes with precision and vivid detail, drawing from his days as a teen in the wilderness battling his own definition of what it meant to be a man. His is a tale both classic and decidedly of this moment, when prejudice and intolerance are again on the rise.
Andy Parent is a well-mannered, intelligent, and conscientious teenage boy who goes to summer camp to learn what all Boy Scouts were sent to camp to learn in the 1950s: strong values and character. Upon his arrival at Camp Echo, the camp director tells Andy and his peers that this summer program is meant “to give America a new generation of men of character, with ingrained qualities that make for good citizenship.”
Andy settles into his cabin with the other “P” boys: Paretsky, Pomroy, Pinto, Phelan, and Pagazzo. Between making lanyards, swimming, and learning to shoot, Andy learns just how little he knows of the world, and how hard it can be for anyone who seems “different” to fit in. As he witnesses bullying and bigotry—both from fellow campers and from the counselors tasked with teaching and protecting the boys—he is faced with the choice of whether to fall in line or remain true to himself.
Nostalgic and nuanced, Camp Echo invites readers to explore the formative experiences that turn a child into an adult. It is a work that will touch anyone who remembers the challenges of adolescence and recognizes the personal and societal trauma wrought by casual prejudice and other cruelties. A morality tale punctuated by the colorful humor and put-downs of adolescent boys, it challenges us to choose when to laugh and when to squirm. As with all great fiction, it is a timeless story, one that speaks as much to the times we’re living in as it does to the time in which it is set.