Authors: Elisabeth Hyde
“Don’t write about how I put peanut butter in the green beans.”
“What’s going to keep you from doing it again?”
“Well now, I LEARN from my mistakes!” Abo declared.
Dixie sighed. “Tone it down, Abo?”
Abo wrapped his arms around her and firmly smooched her cheek. “Let’s do another trip together!”
“Maybe next year,” said Dixie.
As they climbed, the truck lurched dangerously from side to side. The driver had to hold tightly to the steering wheel, for the cobbled ruts had a will of their own and threatened to pull the truck off course if he wasn’t careful. At one point, he had to hug the right edge to avoid
a boulder that had fallen, and JT found himself looking straight down into the dry canyon bed.
A shadow. Moving.
“Hey. Stop the truck,” JT said.
“I can’t stop,” said the driver. “I’ll never get going again.”
“Stop the truck,” said JT. The truck lurched forward with a shriek, then sank back with dust rising all around. JT opened his door with a loud creak and stepped down onto the hardened dirt. There was less than a few feet of space between the truck and the edge of the drop-off. When the dust cleared, he looked down, thinking he’d imagined it.
There he was, loping along the creek bed.
“What is it?” Abo said, climbing out of the truck. “What do you see?”
JT strained his eyes to make sure. How the fuck?
Dixie poked her head out of the window. “What is it?”
JT shook his head in wonder.
“You damn dog,” he breathed.
This book never would have happened if I hadn’t fallen out of the boat in Deubendorff Rapid during my first Grand Canyon trip. Which might seem odd, given the fact that my so-called swim lasted for just thirty terrifying seconds. But with the terror came an exhilaration I hadn’t felt for ages, and before I even dried out, I was already writing about it. I wouldn’t know there was a novel here until much, much later, but the experience has fueled most of my writing since that day.
And so right off the bat I give a tremendous amount of thanks and blessings to Ed Hasse of Arizona Raft Adventures. Ed was my paddle guide that day, and we got off course in Deubendorff. As the boat reared up, I toppled over the back; Ed grabbed onto my ankle for the briefest of seconds, then let me go, physically and spiritually, down into the deep. A lot of people have written very eloquently about what it’s like to swim a big rapid; the most accurate comparison for me lies in the expression “getting maytagged.” I was sucked down and spun around and finally ejected back into the sunlight, after which I truly felt like an unexpected rebirth had taken place. And so thank you, Ed, for letting go. Thank you, too, for all your advice and detailed comments on the manuscript.
That first trip jump-started a continuing passion for the river, and several years later I had the opportunity to go down again—this time as a guide’s assistant. Thanks to Arizona Raft Adventures’ Rob Elliott, Diane Ross, and Katherine Spillman for this last-minute offer, which gave me a much-needed inside view of a guide’s life. A warm and heartfelt thanks to my magnificent guides: Bill Mobley, Jan Sullivan, Jerry Cox, Jessica Cortright, and Jon Harned. With a great deal of patience (and a lot of ribbing) they taught me how to rig a boat, read a rapid, set up a kitchen, and cook a bang-up meal for twenty-five in one
of the most exquisite environments in the world. May you all continue to welcome other travelers into the magical world below the rim.
My entire river education has been supremely enriched through a deep friendship with artist Scott Reuman, Zen Master of Flowing Water. Thanks to Scott for reading and critiquing the manuscript, and for always being available to answer questions both banal and profound. Why do you use four buckets to wash the dishes? Ask Scott. What’s so cool about a river trip? Ask Scott.
And to another invaluable source, Maureen Ryan of Grand Canyon Dories—thank you for pondering my “what-ifs” and offering so much insight into a guide’s thought process. I am forever grateful for our sessions at Vic’s, for your careful reading and commenting on the manuscript in progress, and for your continuing friendship.
To all the members of my fabulous writing group—Marilyn Krysl, Gail Storey, Julene Bair, Lisa Jones, and Janis Hallowell—what would I have done without you? My love and heartfelt thanks for your critical ears and wise comments, week after week after week. More love and thanks to Lisa Halperin and Laura Uhls, too, for reading and critiquing the manuscript in its final stages.
Some people may not have realized they played such an important role in this project, and I wish to extend my gratitude to them: my in-laws, John and Madeleine Schlag, for suggesting the trip in the first place; Graham Fogg, professor of geology at UC Davis, for steering me away from an implausible premise; Artie and Patty and Renee and Kees and Scott, for taking me down the Green; and, above all, my beloved parents, John and Betty Hyde, for all those trips in the red canoe, which despite its unfortunate disappearance is out there on some lake or stream, making someone happy.
To my New York Crew: down-on-my-knees thanks to my agent, Molly Friedrich, for including me in her very busy life; to my editor, Jordan Pavlin, for having confidence in this novel when it was just a phrase in my mind; to Lucy Carson, for such careful readings of numerous drafts; and to Leslie Levine, for handling all the details at every stage of publication.
Thanks to Vic’s Café in Boulder, not only for all the caffeine but also for the anonymous workspace. (You senior noontime ladies rock!)
And finally to my husband, Pierre, whose central role in this project goes back to a lunch on our deck one summer day. It was about a year after our first river trip, and I was still obsessed. Since I was writing
The Abortionist’s Daughter
at the time, I was trying to turn one of the characters into a river guide. Suffice it to say that I had trouble figuring out how a river guide would end up a criminal detective, and sought Pierre’s help. We brainstormed for an hour.
“Give it up,” he finally said. “Go write a whole novel about the river.”
So I did.
National Park Service,
Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association,
Arizona Raft Adventures/Grand Canyon Discovery,
, 1-800-786-7238 (my personal favorite!)
Arizona River Runners, http://www.raftarizona.com/, 1-800-477-7238 Canyon Explorations/Expeditions,
Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, Inc.,
Diamond River Adventures,
Grand Canyon Dories,
Grand Canyon Expeditions Company,
Hatch River Expeditions,
Moki Mac River Expeditions, Inc.,
Western River Expeditions,
Wilderness River Adventures,
Professional River Outfitters, Inc.,
Red River Sports,
Red Rock Outfitters,
Elisabeth Hyde is the author of four previous novels. Born and raised in New Hampshire, she has since lived in Vermont, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle. In 1979 she received her law degree and practiced briefly with the U.S. Department of Justice. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband and three children.
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
Copyright © 2009 by Elisabeth Hyde
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
In the heart of the canyon / Elisabeth Hyde.—1st ed.
1. Rafting (Sports)—Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)—Fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.