A Letter from Danielle for August ’22

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you are doing well and that life is rolling smoothly for you, and you’ve managed to take some time off this summer to relax and enjoy yourself. Everything seems more precious now after battling Covid for two years—and the isolation and confinements, and constant concern with health measures. It’s not gone yet, but we have more means at our disposal to make it less dangerous than we had a year ago, which is some improvement.

And people are reading a lot more than they used to, spending more time at home.

August always seems a little bit nostalgic. By the time August rolls around, the summer is almost over (but you still have a little time for some holidays and time off before it’s over!!). In August, there is a little nip of cooler air at night. Kids used to go back to school after Labor Day, but now most schools go back before Labor Day, especially kids on sports teams are due back at practice before the end of August. There are constant reminders that summer is slowly drawing to a close, with a gorgeous Harvest Moon overhead.

And I have a book I really love coming out in hardcover in August. It’s called The Challenge, and it’s about six good, wholesome, nice kids who set off on a picnic in Fishtail, Montana (I fell in love with the name!!), at the foot of Granite Peak—one of the fiercest mountains in the US and said to be the hardest to climb. They go off on a sunny day, five boys and a girl, four of the kids around 14, about to enter high school, and one 6-year-old younger brother and one seventeen-year-old older brother (whose father is dying, and it could happen at any minute). The boys are local. The girl in the group lives in New York with her mother and her recently divorced father has moved to Montana to embrace a simpler life. There is deep animosity between her parents and she misses her Dad, and is enjoying her summer visit with him in Montana and learning a whole new way of life. She met the boys while visiting her Dad—and they are a fine, wholesome group of kids. They leave the ranch of one of the boys on horseback, have a picnic, and a fierce storm and flash flood comes up at the end of the picnic. Having ventured to the other side of a dry river bed, they can’t go back the way they came or get back to their horses and they look for a way around the swelling river by heading up the mountain, and—although the boys have grown up there and know the mountain—within a short time, they get lost. They are bright and resourceful and look for a path down the mountain to try to find a way to get safely home.

It takes until that night for all of the parents to realize that the children are not safely at each other’s homes: none of them have come home. The Mountain Rangers are called in, local deputies and police and, after several days, the National Guard. An intense search for the six young people is conducted on horseback, on foot, and by helicopter. Tremendous stresses arise among the terrified parents, knowing how dangerous the terrain is. Local secrets come out and meanwhile the kids are fighting for their lives on the mountain, trying to stay alive in spite of a forest fire, and the extreme natural dangers of Granite Peak: deep ravines, sharp drops, dangerous wildlife. The youngest member of the group is also severely diabetic and is running out of insulin for his pump.

It’s a story about how terrified we can be for our children, how easily tragedy can occur, and how, in the blink of an eye, everything can change. It’s about trust and fear and danger, how our dreams for our children can be dashed in an instant, how precious they are to us, and how strong and resourceful a group of kids can be. The book is about an entire community—every resource possible is brought into the race to save them—and how fierce nature can be. It’s about brave parents and brave children, facing every obstacle nature can put in front of them, and the agony their parents go through as they wait.

I hope that you love this book and that it becomes as meaningful to you as it is to me. And I hope you will enjoy the last of your summer reading the book avidly, and hoping that they find those kids in time, before it’s too late!!! Have a great time reading it, and a wonderful end to your summer!!!

Much love,

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