Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: The Ledge

Post by Kerrie

This morning I finished, The Ledge, An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier by Northern Colorado Writers member Jim Davidson and award-winning journalist Kevin Vaughan.  This  powerful memoir shows how determination and perseverance can get us through even the most tragic situations.

"On June 21, 1992, climbers Jim Davidson and Mike Price summit Mount Rainier after tackling the difficult Liberty Ridge route. After celebrating on top, they set out on their descent along the Winthrop and Emmons Glaciers, but on the way down tragedy strikes -- a snowbridge spanning a hidden crevasse collapses, plunging both men 80 feet into a dark, frozen slot. Mike does not survive the accident, and Jim faces a seemingly impossible climb to save his own life."

I highly recommend this book, not only because of the incredible, almost unbelievable story, but also because of the quality of the writing. Jim and Kevin took the events from that tragic day and wove them together seamlessly with back story about each of the climbers. As I neared the end of the book, I felt a personal connection to both Jim and Mike and at times was overwhelmed with emotion.

The interesting part is that I know Jim, I've heard him speak about the accident and I even watched the "I Shouldn't Be Alive" episode that featured his story. But from the beginning of the book, starting with the prologue, I was drawn into the story and it held me until the very end.

Here is the opening scene in the prologue.
" I peer off the ledge into blackness. Pressing my gloved hand against the ice wall for balance, I tilt my head to the right and stare past my boots, half-buried in loose snow. Squeezing my left eye shut, I look straight down my right hip and  leg, as if I'm sighting along a rifle barrel. I am desperate to see the bottom of this dim cavern. Nothing. Empty space drops below us and vanishes. My stomach clamps tight, and I swallow hard."

The story starts in media res (in the middle of things). This gets us right into the action and wondering what is happening. This a wonderful and effective technique used by many writers and one you should consider trying if you haven't.

There are also passages throughout the book that are beautifully written, some of those are even from Mike Price who kept journals on many of his trips.
"Seeing the long-shadowed brown furrows cut into the low green-gentle slopes of Observation Mountain is a landmark symbol to me. Perhaps the most important-inspiring one of the trip--to me... A low peak--a 'nothing' mountain--but very beautiful, even more so than Mount Kennedy, in its own right. Green and living, shadowed in the evening arctic sun of mid-July... Nothing awesome, nothing forbidding; a simple easy convergence of peace. The weary way-worn soldier has nearly made it home. The worries of Odysseus are not over...I think I am on the road to being satisfied and it is a road to peace." ~Mike Price

There are many more great examples in the book, but I will leave you with this one:
"Finding the courage to act under duress is among the toughest things most of us will ever face. I believe people can reach into their past to find the incredible strength needed to take action. By remembering loved ones in your life and honoring their faith in you, you can tap the deep well of strength that you innately carry and this will give you courage." ~Jim Davidson

Have you read this amazing book yet?



Marlena Cassidy said...

This sounds like a beautiful memoir and thank you for reviewing it. I especially loved the Mark Price's passage that you highlighted here; his writing is poignant and heartfelt.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I bought my copy on Saturday when I was at Cricket McRae's book signing so I'll be reading both books soon. I already know Jim's experience makes quite a scary and poignant story since I watched Killer Crevasse, but I suspect the book is even more intense.

Laila Knight said...

This sounds like a good story. I'm always on edge when presented with a story about snow and skiing. Someone is bound to fall, break a leg, topple over a cliff, get eating by wolves...:)

Kerrie said...

I agree Marlena, the Mike Price passages are amazing and I really liked that they included those in the book.
Pat, the book is more intense and the wrap-up after the accident is even more poignant than I expected.
That is very true Laila.

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