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On the Edge

On the Edge

by Lesley Strutt

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On the Edge tells the story of Emerald Lake Visser, an unhappy fourteen-year-old who came to live on her aunt and uncle’s farm when she was orphaned at age five. A misfit in her community and at school, her only real friend is an elderly woman, Jess, who teaches her to sail. Emma’s a natural sailor, as if she’s been on a sailboat her whole life. When Jess dies, it’s revealed that she was Emma’s grandmother. After receiving a letter that her mother may be living in the Bahamas, Emma runs away on her grandmother’s boat, the Edge, to find her. Disguising herself as a boy, Emma sails the Edge through the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River, out onto the Atlantic Ocean and through the ICW to Miami, where she crosses the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Navigational mistakes, near misses with the coast guard, a robbery, and storms put Emma in danger time and again. To add to her stress, by the time she reaches New York City she suspects she’s being followed. She notices small black pebbles appearing on her boat, along with dirty footprints in her cockpit. When a handwritten note is tucked into her porthole, she becomes very frightened. She has no passport and is underage. If she’s caught, she’ll be sent back to the farm. But Emma is determined to find her mother.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771335980
Publisher: Inanna Publications
Publication date: 05/01/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Lesley Strutt is a prize-winning poet, playwright, essayist, and a blogger, with a PhD in Linguistics from McGill University in Montreal. She is the descendant of William Pittman Lett, a pre-confederation poet who was known as the Bard of Bytown before Bytown was named Ottawa in 1854. In 2002-2003, she sailed a 32-foor Hunter from Lake Ontario to the Turks and Caicos, then spent the winter sailing around all the islands in the Bahamas. Her debut collection of poetry, Window Ledge, is forthcoming from Inanna Publications in 2020. She lives in Merrickville, Ontario.

Read an Excerpt

The police will soon begin to wonder what happened and determine how far they should search. When no trace of Emma and the Edge is found on the Canadian shores, it's possible they'll start State-side.

Would someone link Emma with a random boy out sailing for the day? If anyone has noticed, would they make the connection? The Edge isn't your typical sailboat. What if they hand out a good enough description...?

Emma's breath hitches as fear rears its ugly head. If they find her....

Emma finally gets it. She gets the enormity of what she has done. She can never go back. Never, as long as she lives. She'll never see her aunt and uncle again. She'll be punished and ... it would destroy her. No. She'll never go back.

The rain pelts down hard. Emma tries to go back to sleep but the violent rocking and the howling keep her awake. Her nightmare hovers in the dark waiting for her. The storm. Her mother shouting for her father. She pushes the monster back down, slams the door on it.

But she can't shake the feeling that something will happen any minute and she goes over and over in her mind that she's safe. There's nothing to do but wait out this storm that slashes around her.

There's a sudden crash against the hull.

"Aack!" Emma races to the porthole to peer out. She sees a large branch sweep by swirling and whipping past. She huddles back down in the berth. She clutches Jess's goofy cat-shaped pillow against her chest.

"I'm safe. I'm safe," she says over and over. She abandons all effort to get back to sleep and flicks on a light.

She can see signs of Jess's presence everywhere. She snuggles deep under the colourful wool blanket Jess knitted. Wedged securely in small spaces all over the boat are Jess's books and mementos: a piece of driftwood that looks like a frog, dried seedpods stuffed in a tiny wooden vase.

Emma remembers the plain white bed in her plain white bedroom back at the farm.

"Everything works better if it's clean and neat! Everything has to be in its place!" Aunt Petra would yell as if Emma was deaf. But it didn't work that way for Emma. There were so many rules for her to break, and it seemed that just when she figured some out, new ones got added.

So here she is, in Jess's boat. No, it's her boat, now. To distract herself, Emma pulls down one of Jess's books on sea legends. She opens it and a piece of paper drifts to the floor. She leans down and picks it up. It's an old photo. Dog-eared, very worn. Her hand trembles as she studies it.

There's Jess, looking much younger than Emma ever remembers seeing her. There's a pretty young woman with long hair. And a child. The child's clutching the woman's hand and leaning against Jess. Emma studies the photo carefully. She turns it over. The words "Emma, Peggy and me" are written on the back.

Emma's heart starts hammering in her chest. She's never seen a photo of herself as a child. Never seen what her mother looks like. So, this woman is her mother. They were together. Of course, it makes sense. But together with Jess? How could Emma have met Jess and not remembered? This must have been what Jess meant about the last time they were together. Before she was brought to live with her aunt and uncle.

More unanswerable questions start to swarm into her head. Tears well up and she wants to scream out her frustration. Instead she squeezes her eyes shut, listens to the rain rattling on the deck above her head.

After a while she gets up and pulls out the letter Jess left her, reads the newspaper clipping again. As she reads, she fingers the small purple stone Jess gave her on her thirteenth birthday. At last she can wear it openly. At least at night when other boaters won't see. She could never wear it at the farm and had kept it carefully hidden from her aunt. Amethyst, Jess had said. A stone for dreaming. She reads again how her mother was last seen in Mayaguana before she disappeared. When Emma had looked it up in the school library, she'd discovered it was the last inhabited island of the Bahamas archipelago that stretches 1500 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. How will she ever make it there? The trip seems so daunting. Overwhelming. What makes her think she can do this? Here she is cowering while she's pummeled by a storm and she's only on a measly river.

Her thoughts drift back to Jess, their random meeting. It was Jess who convinced her to go back to the farm with the promise she could return to visit her anytime. What if it wasn't such a random meeting after all?

Why didn't Jess ever tell her she was her granddaughter? What stopped her from saying anything? Something feels all wrong. A jittery thought creeps into her mind that Jess and Aunt Petra and Uncle Derek had all agreed to keep her in the dark. That Aunt Petra must have known she was visiting her grandmother, and that it was okay as long as Jess didn't say anything. As long as all she did was treat her like any ordinary visitor.

It was Jess who showed Emma that a home could be lovely, and that it could include colour and messiness, stones and driftwood collected from the beach, reclaimed wool in baskets ready for knitting into sweaters, and books piled everywhere. And a sweet old cat who leaves hairs on the couch.

"Whiskers!" Emma sits bolt upright, appalled that she hasn't given Jess's cat a thought until now. "What happened to Whiskers?"

She throws off the blanket in a rush, reaching for her hoodie, her jeans.

"STOP!" She's bare-footed, standing in the centre of the cabin.

"What am I doing?" She holds the jeans in one hand, her sweatshirt in the other, out in front of her as if to ask how they got into her hands.

"What am I doing!" she yells at the storm. The agitation that spurred her out of the berth drains out of her and she's limp with a kind of confusion that makes her head spin.

"Who looked after Jess's cat? Who organized Jess's funeral?" Emma's head begins to ache again. It drives her crazy that she doesn't have answers to the questions whirling inside her. She crawls back into her cozy berth and covers herself with the blanket again.

The hours continue their slow passage.

"I'm truly alone." The thought threatens to swamp her, and her heart sinks like a stone. But as soon as that sinking starts, she has another thought. A startling thought. It comes out of nowhere, like a quiet calm voice deep inside of her, buoying her up like a life jacket.

And that other thought is this: What if I'm part of everything around me? What if I'm part of the birds that are sheltering from the storm, and the black night sky, and this wind that's howling, and the water I'm floating on, and the trees on the shore? Maybe Jess is part of everything too. Even now. What if she's right here with me on this adventure?

She has no clue where the thought comes from. And it's followed just as freshly by another one: What if everything that is happening is happening for a reason?

Emma takes one of the deep breaths that have helped calm her in the past.

I ran away because there is something I need to do. And that thing is this: I need to find out what happened to my mother.

And with that last thought, something inside of Emma stops and becomes very still. It's as if Jess has reached out and put a hand on her shoulder and said, YES!

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