A starred review by Kirkus Reviews, reserved for books of exceptional merit
Kirkus Reviews chose The Encampment as a Best Indie Book of 2020
During a harsh winter, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD takes refuge in the woods surrounding a prestigious girls boarding school in this novel.
In Connecticut, 18-year-old Sylvia Bickham, who’s led a fairly sheltered existence, is due to graduate from the highly selective Miss Oliver’s School for Girls and take the next steps on a privileged but rather purposeless path. When she encounters Christopher Triplett bathing naked in the river that runs through the school grounds, it comes as something of a shock to her; for him, it’s a moment of profound humiliation. He’s a former Marine sergeant with four tours in Iraq behind him. An incident involving the death of a young girl during his service has left him unable to cope with civilian life. He’s jobless and lives in a makeshift lean-to in the forest, but as the brutal Connecticut winter draws closer, his chances of survival are diminishing rapidly. For Sylvia, its unconscionable that someone is struggling to survive on the grounds of a wealthy school, so, aided by fellow student Elizabeth Cochrane, she starts providing Christopher with food, clothing, and money. When the weather begins to turn and Christopher’s shelter is vandalized and destroyed, it becomes clear that more drastic measures are needed. Two things are guaranteed to get you expelled from Miss Oliver’s: stealing and allowing men into your dormitory—and Sylvia and Elizabeth are soon guilty of both. In this third installment of Davenport’s Miss Oliver’s series, following No Ivory Tower, she presents readers with a slow-burning, gripping novel that will reward their patience. The dilemma that Sylvia and Elizabeth face involves making the subtle but important distinction between doing the correct thing and doing the right thing, and it’s one that plays out convincingly over the course of the story. The author also handles homeless veteran Christopher’s plight with sensitivity and insight. Davenport is an accomplished stylist with a keen ear for nuanced dialogue; he also has a knack for making serious political points with a light touch that makes them broadly accessible.
A thoughtful and compelling account of the responsibilities that come with privilege.
“It’s no surprise that Saving Miss Oliver’s is informed by a compassionate knowledge of all people who inhabit independent schools. After all, the book’s author spent years teaching at and leading this kind of institution, and later was one of the nation’s top consultants. He knows the territory. ”
—Peter Tacy, former Executive Director of The Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and Head of The Marvelwood School, Kent Connect
“I first saw Saving Miss Oliver’s in the Edgartown library -couldn’t resist the cover. The note in it from the previous reader: ‘Started this marvelous book at 5pm; finished it at 5am.’ Then I read it and have now ordered eight copies. Everyone in and out of education would enjoy this book. Thank you for writing Saving Miss Oliver’s.”
—Mari Harmon, Edgartown, MA
“From the very first paragraphs, Saving Miss Oliver’s is an engaging novel and is very highly recommended to all general fiction readers.”
—Midwest Book Review
“The characters jumped off the page and made me keep reading to find out what they were thinking, how they developed and what they did next.”
—Jessie Lea Abbott, Head of School, Katherine Delmar Burke School, San Francisco, CA
“This first novel is a winner. It is spelled out on the cover – For Everyone Who Has Evere Loved a School – and Stephen Davenport’s first novel, Saving Miss Oliver’s does not disappoint. The plot is terrific, the characters come alive under Davenport’s pen. Having been part of a university campus for several years, I found the book rang so true I couldn’t put it down.”
—Joyce Laabs, Book Review Editor, The Lakeland Times
“My copy of Saving Miss Oliver’s arrived a few hours before we set sail for Hawaii, a long awaited holiday. I replaced The World is Flat with it, and once begun, I couldn’t put it down. It was as if the novel was attached to my brain, my memories, my very soul.”
—Stephen Waters, Deering, NH
“Davenport does an excellent job of weaving the lessons of organizational development into a fictional story where the reader cares about the characters and can actually relate to and sympathize with each of their situations. How unique it is to find such lessons in a novel, let alone a novel so well crafted that the reader walks away inspired to be a better manager, teacher, student and leader.”
—Barbara Hines, Book Review Editior, Quill and Scroll, Howard University
“Please send me 100 brochures for this terrific book. We have run out!”
—David Mallery, Philadelphia, PA
“I finished reading Saving Miss Oliver’s in about two days because I couldn’t stop reading it.”
—Grace Quam, Black Mountain, NC
“I loved Saving Miss Oliver’s and I could not put it down. Every now and then i would stop and think of various times and situations during my own teaching career. I am happy to say that I have known several heroes like Fred Kindler. I will share this book with others who will find it meaningful. I send praise and admiration to Stephen Davenport.”
—Betty O’Regan, Arden, DE
“This is a wonderful novel, full of humor, warmth and wisdom, with a well-paced, intricate plot. Stephen Davenport not only knows the world of independent schools inside and out, he understands the complexities and contradictions of the human heart.”
—Linda Lancione Moyer
"Stephen Davenport has used his "on the ground" experiences to depict characters who can be found in any independent school. From the fiercely loyal to the sneaky backstabbers to the ostrich heads, this second book in the Miss Oliver's series is filled with recognizable and redeeming characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to read #3!"
"When I picked up Stephen Davenport’s 'No Ivory Tower', I was expecting something akin to the 1936 film 'Girls’ Dormitory', set in an all girls’ private school and centered on how the faculty deal with a potential scandal. I loved that movie, but it’s nothing compared to this book."
"I was completely blown away by the highly intelligent, yet not at all pretentious, tone of this novel. “It was on the Monday morning of the second week of March that, somewhere between the subject and the verb of a long, convoluted sentence, Mitch Michaels first lost track of what he was telling his listeners.” Isn’t that a lovely phrase? Doesn’t it make you want to smile? Page after page, I found myself smiling at Davenport’s word choice and sentence structure, anxious to continue reading yet sad to near the end. This man has an incredible talent, and I look forward to picking up his first novel, the prequel 'Saving Miss Oliver’s' soon."