Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Review: Holding Fast

Book Review: Holding Fast: The Untold Story of The Mount Hood Tragedy

I wasn't sure if I would make it through this book. After reading the first chapter or two I was struck by an incredibly strong desire not to continue reading! The book is all about a tragedy and as the story unfolded I began to feel a sense of dread about where it was going. Written by the wife of a climber who gets the news that her husband did not make it off the mountain, she writes honestly and openly enough that you feel right along with her. Usually a quick reader, I put the book down for a couple of weeks. This past weekend I picked it up again and forced myself to keep going with it. I was very glad I did.

Holding Fast is written by Karen James, the widow of a mountain climber Kelly James. The book is about the life of this amazing couple and the series of events that lead to a massive search and rescue effort on Mount Hood, looking for Kelly. What Karen and her children go through, the efforts of the searchers, and the response by family and friends make this a truly compelling story. Painful yes, but therapeutic as well. It is a book about letting go - on several levels. It would be difficult to not be inspired by the life of Kelly - he truly loved life but was not a prisoner to it. Like myself he found himself closest to God when outdoors. He is described as a man who loved hard, risked hard, and laughed hard - all traits I'd like to have more of. He seemed to have a good balance between fully enjoying this life and longing for the next.

Kelly's faith was a rock to his wife but she had to find her own faith in the aftermath of Kelly's death. The response by her friends and family and the powerful steps she took in the grieving process would be helpful for anyone going through grief (or wanting to know how to help those who are). How does one recover from terrible tragedy, when the thing you loved the most is taken from you? Karen seems to have found the answers to this painful question and the end result is hope for herself and those who read her story.

Most North American movies are the ones with happy endings, but if you read only such books, you are missing out on a major part of the human experience - overcoming suffering. I recommend this book to anyone interested in questions about life, suffering, faith, or anyone with a passion for the outdoors. Very readable, thought provoking, and real. 4 out of 5 ninja stars.

P.S. This was the first book I read through Thomas Nelson's free book review program for bloggers. Find out more about it here.

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