The last words Nora says to her father are “I hate you.” Moments later, she watches in disbelief as a flash flood whisks her father away, down the canyon where they’re hiking. A year ago, Nora’s mother was killed in a random shooting; now she fears she has lost her father, too. Most of all, Nora wonders whether she has lost herself and her will to survive in the brutal and unforgiving Arizona desert.
Although she and her father are both knowledgeable, experienced hikers, Nora is lost and totally alone. She must face venomous snakes, scorpions, heat and thirst—and the Beast that has haunted her for the last year. As she wanders, never finding more than temporary shelter but always holding out hope of finding her father, her therapist’s voice echoes in her mind: “Focusing on what ifs helps nothing.”
Nora discovers it’s the small things that cause the most hardship. A pesky braid that won’t stay put. A mesquite bean that barely offers a calorie of sustenance. The slicing pain of a stone cutting her skin. The words we say that hurt each other. A tiny bullet that can shatter lives. Nora confronts each one, continuing to focus all her effort on her next step, driving herself onward.
The Canyon’s Edge begins and ends in prose, but the wall of water that sweeps Nora’s father away also shifts the narrative into suspenseful, propulsive free verse. It’s thrilling to witness the courage and fortitude Nora displays (not to mention sheer strength and will) as she battles the elements and learns that invisible demons can be the hardest to conquer. Her story will resonate with readers who understand that the key to survival is finding something to live for.