Ontario author Lesley Strutt’s novel On the Edge is part of Inanna Publication’s Young Feminist Series, and is an adventurous read for all ages, especially for those who like sailing stories. Fourteen-year-old Emma (short for Emerald) is living an overly-restrictive life on her Aunt and Uncle’s farm near Kingston, Ontario. For mysterious reasons. her mother handed over care of her to them when Emma was only a little girl. Her only reprieve from her confines is when she gets to have a little time with an older woman named Jess, who owns The Edge, a 25-foot MacGregor sailboat. Emma appears to be a natural sailor as they cruise Lake Ontario. One day, the elderly Jess passes away, and Emma finds out to her disbelief that The Edge is now hers, along with a substantial amount of money in a trust fund. Her Aunt Petra is not pleased with this news and is determined to sell the boat, although legally she cannot. This doesn’t stop her from listing it as “for sale” and when Emma discovers the advertisement, she escapes the farmhouse and makes tracks for The Edge. She has heard that her mother may be in the Bahamas and is determined to sail there on her own to find her. Along her journey though, she feels that she is being watched. She gets strange notes and even has her anchor cut at one point. Other times, she is alerted to a disaster before she crashes on the rocks. There are a few mysteries to be solved as she sails The Edge single-handed from one map point to another.
On the Edge is a novel of a young person determined to take matters into their own hands to find out the truth, solve some family mysteries and to discover her birth parents. Set on a sailboat, Emma’s journey of discovery does not take place by land-based research and combing through birth records but begins on crossing Lake Ontario, entering a foreign country (illegally) navigating the interconnecting canal system and locks in upstate New York as well as open sailing off the east coast of the U.S. and then around the Bahamas. In this regard, the book is a bit of a travelogue, and educational as well about the historic lock system and of sailing in general (the MacGregor boats are equipped with a motor for navigating the locks and rivers). While Inanna Publications considers this a feminist novel, Emma still has to prove her worth to men and has to disguise herself as a boy for parts of her journey to lessen any suspicion of a young girl sailing on her own. A reflector of the real world, one supposes, where a woman’s worth needs to be constantly proved (or is questioned), while that of a man’s worth (in many cases) is taken for granted. At any rate, I quite enjoyed reading On the Edge and I recommend it for all young adult readers and sailing aficionados.
On the Edge by Lesly Strutt
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. The Miramichi Reader (TMR) —Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases— highlights noteworthy books and authors across Canada from coast to coast to coast (est. 2015). James works and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.