Dancing on the Edge

Dancing on the Edge

by Han Nolan

Paperback(First Edition)

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Miracle McCloy comes from an unusual family: Her father, Dane is a prodigy who published his first book at age thirteen; her grandmother, Gigi, is clairvoyant; and her mother was dead when her "miracle" daughter was pulled from her womb. Having been raised according to a set of mystical rules and beliefs, Miracle is unable to cope in the real world. Lost in a desperate dance among lit candles, she sets herself afire and comes to in a hospital. There, a young psychiatrist helps her navigate her painful struggle to take charge of her life.
     Includes a reader's guide and an interview with the author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780152058845
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/01/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 260
Sales rank: 427,019
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

HAN NOLAN is the author of six other highly acclaimed novels published by Harcourt.

Read an Excerpt


Gigi said my guardian angel must have been watching over me real good when I was born. Maybe so, but I wish the angel had watched over me less and seen to Mama more. I never liked hearing about how I came into this world anyway. It didn't seem natural, a live baby coming out of the body of a dead woman. Gigi said it was the greatest miracle ever to come down the pike.

"That's how come we call you Miracle," she told me for the millionth time when I was ten, after she had recited the whole story. She and Dane, my daddy, were setting up the card table for the séance we were going to have with Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole that night.

"And there's no need hanging your head like there's something to be ashamed of, you hear? Being pulled live from your mama's twisted body like that was an omen, a portent of great things to come, isn't that right, Dane?" She slid the Ouija board out of the box and set it on the card table. Dane didn't answer her, and she could tell by the way he studied the floorboards, his brows bunched up in fierce concentration, that he was too busy with his own important thoughts to bother with anything we might have to say. Gigi just kept right on talking anyway.

"She'll be something great one of these days," she said, nodding, her silver-streaked bun bobbling on top of her head. "You mark my words, I'll discover her special talent and I'll —"

"Need anything else done, Mama?" Dane asked, cutting her off. He never liked having to take time out from his thinking to do anything. I liked to think a lot, too, and it often got me in trouble with the teachers at school who accused me of daydreaming, so I understood. Gigi did, too, most of the time. She told him we'd do just fine without him and for him to go on back down to his room, and she'd send me down later with a tray of sweet tea and sandwiches for him.

Dane lit up a cigarette and blew the first puff at the ceiling. I watched his eyes follow the swirl of smoke. Then I saw them narrow into little slits, and he stayed like that a minute or two, squinting at the ceiling, lost in thought again. I studied him, with his long, long body and his shoulders hunched forward as if he'd been wounded in the chest, and I wanted to do something — dance, or show him my report card with all the A's again — something that would lift him up, smooth out the furrows in his face, and bring light to the dull glances he gave me. I touched his hand and it startled him. He looked down, scowling at first, and then seeing it was just me, his scowl disappeared and he blinked. Then, without a word he turned and shuffled away, his slippers flapping at his heels and his bathrobe sash dragging behind him like a tail.

To look at him you wouldn't think my daddy ever did a lick of work, always in that robe and slippers with the mashed-down heels, but he was a writer, a prodigy. He had his first novel published when he was just thirteen, and Gigi always said that right away he was a literary sensation, the great Dane McCloy! I had a copy of his book on my shelf, and inside the book, below the title, Dane had written to me, "For Miracle, with love, Dane McCloy." It was my own special copy, and I told Dane that I loved it even though I had only read the last page. It was the first book I'd ever owned that didn't end with "And they lived happily ever after."

He wrote his next book when he was fifteen and the next at seventeen, the same year he married Mama, who was four months pregnant with me. Gigi always said that four is a sacred and holy number. She said all numbers are important because they contain all things in the natural and spiritual world, but I didn't like the number four because four and a half months after Mama married Dane, she got run over by an ambulance speeding to the scene of an accident. They pulled over and put Mama on a stretcher and kept her alive long enough to pick up the real accident victims, but by the time they wheeled her into the hospital she was dead. Then, of course, came the part where they realized the woman they ran over was pregnant and not fat and even though I should have been dead, too, by that time, they cut Mama open and out I came, full of portents and omens — a miracle.

Yes, I had heard the story many times, but it was hearing it that night, six years ago, that stands out in my mind. That was the night I learned that portents and omens could mean the foretelling of something bad as well as something good.

It was the night of the séance with Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole. For once I was going to get to stay up and participate, maybe even talk to Mama if Aunt Casey would let me. Sissy, my mama, was Aunt Casey's younger sister, and Dane said when the two of them connected on the Ouija board, there was no getting a word in edgewise, which I could imagine to be true because Aunt Casey always had to give her opinion about everything.

I was so excited about the séance, I couldn't stay away from the Ouija board, and all afternoon I kept pestering Gigi. I wanted her to explain everything to me so I'd look professional and Aunt Casey wouldn't make fun of me. Gigi was patient with me for a while. She explained about the pointed wooden thing with the nail poking down in the middle. "This is called a planchette," she said. "Now you place your fingertips on one side like so, and then I place mine on the other. Now, not so heavy. Lightly, lightly, like you're resting them on marshmallows. Good. Now tonight, if we get us a spirit, this planchette will start moving. And you don't push it, hear? Your fingers stay soft, let them just go along for the ride." Gigi pushed the planchette across the board and watched my fingers. I held them so they were just barely touching the wooden edge.

"Good. Now the planchette will move over the alphabet or over to the word yes or no, or good or bad, or use the numbers. See, it can use any part of the board."

"And that will be the spirit talking to us?" I asked. "That will be Mama talking?" "That's right, baby doll." She left me then to go finish up her load of laundry in the basement. I stayed at the table, playing Ouija with my Barbie doll, and thought about all the questions I was going to ask Mama, the same questions I had asked her every night since I could remember. "Where are you, Mama?" I always began, lying in my bed and staring up into the darkness, feeling her silence. "Where is the spirit world? Is it just like heaven? Are you happy? Do you know who I am? Do you know what I look like? They say I'm small for my age and way too skinny, and I feel small, Mama, like the smallest seed, so far away from you. I'm taking good care of Dane. Do you know that? Are you proud of me for looking after Dane?"

Finally, Gigi said I had fiddled enough with the board and I was getting too much body heat on the planchette. She told me to leave it alone and find myself something else to do for the next hour.

I slipped Dane's Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits tape into my tape player and sang and danced all over the living room furniture. I was teetering on the arm of the sofa, trying to do an arabesque, when Aunt Casey came hip-swaying into the room. She stopped halfway across, looked at me with her mean eyeliner eyes, and said, "Miracle, does your grandmama know you're out here busting up her furniture?" "Sure she does," I lied. "I'm going to be a great prodigy someday, and I need to practice. Gigi says so."

I did a flip off the armrest and landed standing with both feet on the seat cushion. I held out my arms and bowed to her.

"Big hoo-hoo to you," she said. "You aren't any kind of prodigy. It's not hereditary. As a matter of fact, it's a freak accident. Your daddy's a freak. You just look it up in the dictionary. A prodigy is something abnormal or monstrous."

I jumped off the sofa. "I'm not listening to you," I said, covering my ears. She always had something mean to say about Dane, or me, or both of us. I think it riled her good that he was famous, a child prodigy, as if somehow his being one took something away from her.

Just seeing her and Uncle Toole coming up the walk could make my stomach cringe: Aunt Casey, tall and slim and stiff-legged in her too-high heels, and Uncle Toole a head shorter and looking tough, just daring anyone to notice a difference in their heights. And I knew at the very least Aunt Casey would be looking at me all night, the way she always did, as if it hurt her face, as if it were painful.

I told Gigi once that I didn't know why they had to be dropping by all the time as if they were neighbors. They lived two whole towns away. They weren't really even family anymore. "Casey's just Dane's ex-sister-in-law," I said, and then added, "It's true, Dane told me so," when I caught the way Gigi studied me, as if she were making some decision about what she wanted to say to me. She appeared worried, then frightened, her pink jowly face suddenly pale, almost gray, and then with a sweep of her hand in front of her face, her expression changed, her color returned, and she smiled and said in a voice that sounded flat and rehearsed, "With Sissy gone, we're the only family Casey has. She may be an in-law to me and Dane, but she's your aunt, so you be nice to her." Then Gigi closed her eyes and started humming, her signal that the conversation had ended; she had gone into a trance.

I wanted to ask her more about Aunt Casey, and lots more about Mama. I always wanted to ask more, but she never let me. Gigi didn't like me asking a lot of questions. She said my questions upset the karmic balance, and I knew this was so, because even though I didn't know what karmic balance meant, I could tell how upset my questions made her.

So I tried to be nice to Aunt Casey, but the best I could do was to just stay out of her way.

The night of the séance, I grabbed my Barbie doll off the card table and flopped down on the floor with it. I tried to pretend Aunt Casey wasn't in the room with me. Then "Just Like a Woman" started playing, and Aunt Casey turned up the volume.

"I love this song," she said, mashing her cigarette into the brickwork and then flicking the dead butt into the fireplace. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall in a way that made her narrow hips poke out of her spandex pants like big old cow bones. Her face wore a peaceful, happy expression for a change, and her hair was crammed beneath a scarf with fat pink sponge curlers poking out every which way. I looked at her and then at my Barbie doll with its plastic face, narrow waist, and large bust. They looked alike. I tossed the doll over my shoulder. Uncle Toole had just come into the room and the doll landed at his feet.

"See, sugar, I told you women just threw themselves at me."

"You see me laughing, Toole Dawsey?" Aunt Casey pushed off the wall and set her hands on her hip bones. The two of them were always either fighting or acting all lovey-dovey with each other, and being around them either way just gave me the hives. I jumped to my feet, thinking I'd go find Dane, but then Uncle Toole stretched his hairy arms out to me and scooped me up, tossing me onto his shoulder. I don't know why but he always had to pick me up and turn me upside down when he saw me. It hurt because he did it so fast and handled me like one of the crates he lifted and loaded all day. Even if it didn't hurt, I wouldn't have liked it because he scared me. He was big-muscled and square all over, with a snarly, growly sounding voice and a scar on his forehead that looked as if the long jagged edge of a piece of glass had cut into him.

"Miracle, you're getting so heavy I might drop you," he said, loosening his grip around my ankles some. "Oops! Oops! Watch out," He lowered me to the ground on my head, let go, and I did a somersault and scooted out of his way.

Gigi rattled in with the tray of iced tea and glasses. "Is everybody ready?" she asked.

Aunt Casey turned off my tape player and took her seat at the table. The rest of us joined her, and then wouldn't you know it, Toole had to point me out.

"Whoa, what's going on here? Why ain't the baby toddling on off to bed? Are we having us a see-ance or a romper room here?" He gave us all his squinted-up, suspicious look, the one he always gave people whenever he felt they knew something he didn't know and they weren't saying what.

I looked to Gigi and she squinched her nose up at me. I smiled back.

"Dane is working," Gigi said, "and we need a fourth, and anyway, it's high time we introduced Miracle to some of her ancestors."

"I want to talk to Mama," I said, so excited I was ready to pee in my pants.

Uncle Toole arched back in his chair and puffed out his chest. "Shoot," he said, shaking his square head and giving me a nasty look.

Aunt Casey pulled the two cigarettes she had just lit out of her mouth and handed one to Uncle Toole. "Don't be rude to the child," she said, blowing her smoke over my head.

Uncle Toole looked at the pink lipstick around the tip of the cigarette. Pink, the color symbol for all things female, as Gigi would say. He took a drag and blew the smoke out at me with a long low burp.

"Toole!" Gigi and Aunt Casey said at the same time.

"Shoot, let's just do it, okay?" he said, pulling forward in his seat and resting his wide, hairy hands on the edge of the Ouija board.

Gigi lit three of the candles that hung from a chandelier over the table and turned out the lights.

We all sat with our hands placed before us on the table and waited for a signal from Gigi. She had closed her eyes and was taking deep breaths through her nose and letting them out through the O she made with her lips. The candles flickered above us, casting dancing shadows in the room and on our faces. I looked at the three people sitting with me and they didn't look like themselves at all. Gigi's long nose looked longer and waxy, like Silly Putty, her loose-skinned face all lumpy, and the fat bun on the top of her head looked like a big old mud pie. Aunt Casey's head with the curlers made her look like a space creature, and the long strokes of eyeliner extending beyond the outer corners of her own eyes made her look evil, her green cat eyes squinting and blinking like sinister signals. And Uncle Toole's scar had gone a dark, deep red, as if his blood were pulsating through all that dead tissue, bringing it to life.

Gigi whispered, "I want you all to see Sissy. Close your eyes and concentrate. See her. See her."

I heard Aunt Casey whisper, "Yes."

"See her. Feel her near," Gigi said.

I closed my eyes and thought of the picture of Mama Dane had on top of his writing desk. She was swinging on a giant iron gate and smiling for the camera, but to me she looked sad, the smile on her lips not reaching her eyes. I wondered if she knew then she was going to die young. I wondered if people knew deep down when they were going to die.

Gigi began to hum, and we all placed our fingertips on the planchette.

We sat listening to the low tone of her hum for a few minutes, and then I saw Gigi's body jerk sideways. "Who's there?" she asked.

The planchette moved. I felt goose bumps rise up on my arms, and my bottom began to itch. The planchette moved again, and it felt as if the guide piece were simply floating beneath my fingertips. I knew I wasn't making it move. I looked at Uncle Toole. His eyes were closed. So were Aunt Casey's and Gigi's. The planchette stopped moving and they opened their eyes. The nail was pointing at the letter R.

"Rasmus, is that you?" Gigi asked.

We started moving again, faster. The nail pointed to the word yes.

"We want to talk to Sissy. Is she there?"

The planchette moved away from the yes and then slid back.

I started chewing on my lip. I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to talk to Mama.

"Sissy, your baby's here. Your little girl. Your Miracle."

I inched forward in my seat and both Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole shushed me.

The planchette started moving again, quickly, smoothly, almost floating over the surface of the board. It slid to the T, then the R, then O-U-B-LE.

"What kind of trouble?" Gigi asked.

Again the planchette was moving, and I could feel my fingers trembling. I had chewed a sore into my lip, and I worked at it and watched the planchette float over to the D, then to A-N-E.

Trouble for Dane, I thought. I began to relax. People were always saying that. "What's the trouble with Dane?" they'd ask. "Where's his next book?" they'd wonder. "Wasn't that novel he wrote nine years ago supposed to be part of a trilogy?" Dane had been having trouble with his writing ever since Mama died and I was born.

"What trouble, Sissy?" Gigi asked.

I looked at Gigi. I wanted to talk. When was she going to let me talk?


Excerpted from "Dancing on the Edge"
by .
Copyright © 1997 Han Nolan.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Dancing on the Edge 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 10 years old and i was in school picking out a book. i came across this and i just had to read it. i read it for an hour and begged my teacher if i could read longer. if you have not read this book you definetly should. oh yeah, i tlod my friend to read it. at first she was all against it and after she started reading it she could not stop. hope you love this book!
ktaylerr More than 1 year ago
At the beginning I thought I might want to turn it back into the library. But as I got farther into it, the harder it was to but down. I love how Han Nolan used very describing words and made you feel like you were part of the book. Miracle is so messed up, but it was a very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i first started this book, i was skeptical because the whole spiritguide medium thing seemed a bit ridiculous, but i kept on reading and i can honestly say this is one of my favorites. you just have to keep reading even if it doesnt catch your attention at first, because the book it truly wonderful. i wanted to throw the book down the first day but im glad i didnt give up. i can picture the ending and it gets me everytime.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really really loved this book!!!!!! it keeped me thrilled tell the very end. Mircle is a very bright young girl and you would have never thought about what she does in this story. I REALLY REALLY REALLY loved this book!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book was so awesome. Infact I am reading it right now! I love the details it gives and basicly the whole story. I am still dying to here the ending. i am just at the part where Miracle is at the bus station and Gigi has just left her the without any money to go home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. You just want to read more! Miracle, the main character, is dealing with the disapearance of her father. Her grandmother isn't much help, and her grandfather is a complete stranger to her. Once again, great book!
mrsdwilliams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miracle McCloy (so named because her mother died before Miracle was actually born) is raised by her father, Dane, and her grandmother, Gigi. Dane is a brilliant novelist and Gigi is a psychic. When Dane disappears, Gigi insists that he has "melted" and Miracle becomes obsessed with finding him.Miracle finally goes too far and attempts to melt herself. She is seriously injured and ends up in a hospital where she learns the truths that have been hidden from her. It's difficult not to cheer for Miracle as she comes to grips with a reality she has known, deep down, her whole life.This is one of Nolan's finest novels.
midnighttwilight101 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miracle has her name for a reason, she was born from the body of a dead woman. Her mom was run over by an ambulance when she was 8 months pregnant, the ambulance kept her stable enough so they could pick up the victims they were racing to in the first place, but she was dead before they made it to the hospital. She grew up with her grandmother and her father. Her father was a child prodigy, he published his first book at 13. Her grandmother Gigi is a psychic, she can speak to the dead and read auras. One night when Gigi, Miracle and her aunt and uncle try to contact her mom through a ouija board it says her father is gone. They go down to his room and find his clothes in a pile. Gigi said he melted and Miracle believes her. Ever since then Miracle's life has been crazier than she ever could have imagined.I liked this book. It was very interesting. The plot had so many twists and turns i could write a ten page summary without even giving any spoilers out. But it all seemed to flow very nicely and made the story very interesting. This book goes from when Miracle is 11 to when she is fourteen and it shows how she grows throughout that time. And although that is a long amount of time the book is only 244 pages and is a very fast read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’ really think there is a main idea to this book. I believe it was just written to give the reader entertainment. Even without a main idea, this book was absolutely amazing. The book is about a young girl named Miracle. Her life is ridiculously interesting and crazy. She has no mother, her father ‘melts’, she lives with her crazy aunt, an uncle who barely shows himself to anyone, everything thinks her and her entire family are totally insane, and she can’t do the one thing she loves to do… dance. This book kept me totally interested and on the tips of my toes. So many exciting and unexpected things happen all through the book. The entire time reading the book my heart raced and my imagination ran wild thinking of what could possibly happen next. It’s a lot different from other stories like Cinderella, and The Shakespeare’s Stealer but I personally think it’s a lot better, too. This book is most definitely one of the best. As I have said before, this book was completely amazing. I could read it over and over and over again, and would never get tired of all the thrill and excitement this book holds within its pages. There is no main idea or reason for writing except to keep you, the reader, entertained.As I have said before, this book was completely amazing. I could read it over and over and over again, and would never get tired of all the thrill and excitement this book holds within its pages. There is no main idea or reason for writing except to keep you, the reader, entertained.
SashaNicole More than 1 year ago
I first read this when I was eleven and completely fell in love with it. I assumed that it would be all about dance, perhaps ballet, in the beginning but it is so much more than that. I have read this multiple times and it happens to be the only fiction novel I can read more than once. It is heartfelt and connects you with the character. You learn to care about her and feel almost sorry for all that she goes through. It takes a certain kind of person to write in such a way and Han Nolan is it.
fairbank_30 More than 1 year ago
This book was okay. I felt the first half of the book was kind of boring. Part two of the book was more interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SK_BookClub More than 1 year ago
We are 14 and 13 years old respectively, and we both read this book. Shelby: When I read the book, "Dancing on the edge" I thought it was about a girl that dance 'til the end of her life, but it was way different than I expected. The girl, Miracle, (I love that name!!) has a very weird family who treats her like dust. I thought that was just wrong, but when I got deeper, so did the story's plot. The father disappears, they move, she dances behind her grandmother's back, and everything goes whack. Miracle knows the truth, her Aunt lies, and her grandmother thinks kidnapping is a solution!? This book brought me to a world that I already knew.my mind. I know it's weird, but that's what I like. I'm 14 yrs. Old and this book is my world. Read it to be inspired. Kaitlyn: I am a 13 year old girl, and I love this book. I think anyone 12 years and older should read it. Han Nolan did a wonderful job. It is on my top 10 best books I have ever read list. When I read the book I couldn't put it down. It just keeps getting better and better as the story went on. Please read it. At least give a shot.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i am read this book for english. god, it took me 2 months to truly finish, and im not a slow reader. miracle is such a complex character it is hard to stay with the book. it was very well writen, but god, some things that she thought made me want to through the book at the wall. she had a strange belief system, which ultimately led to her true breakdown. but she recovered way too quickley. her thoughts were too, out there for my taste. if for any english class, avoid at all cost.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the second book I have read from Han Nolan and I loved it. I couldn't put it down. Poor Miracle was sooooo messed up! I just would have liked to know what happened to Dane and Gigi in the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really amazing. I think that anyone who feels confused about anything in their life should read this, because I'm sure they can relate to some of the problems that occur in the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely a good book. Especially if you are into some magic, and spells. You might have to look up some words if your vocabulary isn¿t that great. But other than that it's a great book. It doesn¿t really take long to read especially if you are into it, neither is it that hard to understand either. By the middle of the book you will hate to put it down. It's not that great when you first start reading it, but don't get discouraged. Keep reading it and the farther you get the more you will get into it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think I read this book 20 times, and I'm not exagerating. This was a great story of what cold happen in one girls life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i love this book so because it tells you to be thankful what you have for example your mom and dad. i felt so sorry for micrale because she has no mom or a dad. i very very very very very very very very very very very very love this book a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is incredible! It is well written and has a great plot. I would highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dancing on the Edge is the story of Miracle McCloy, who blames herself for a lot of her family's problems. She was born from her dead mother, she finds herself in the emergency room when she tries to melt herself by burining herself to be with her dead father she constantly moves from place to place, she lives with her aunt and uncle who constantly argues,her grandmother Gigi who believes in spirits and auras influences her life, her grandaddy Opal who encourages her to dance and to become a prodigy like her father... this is one that you will enjoy.