Edge of Nowhere
by John Smelcer
“More psychological depth than Robinson Crusoe.” —Frank McCourt
Chosen for the 2014 Battle of the Books by the Alaska Association of School Libraries
All around the Erin Elizabeth the shadow-blackened
sea dipped and rose in the cold rain, the canyons between
waves narrowing and widening beneath dark clouds
swirling on a grey, thundering horizon. Among the great
swells the fishing boat looked tiny and lost. On the pitching
deck, Seth Evanoff clung to the railing, trying to steady
himself and to keep from falling overboard. At sixteen, he
had not yet developed his father’s sea legs. His feet gave
out beneath him when a rogue wave swashed across the
deck, dashing a large, plastic tub against the starboard side.
He watched in awe as a gust snatched the empty tub and
hurled it tumbling into the tumultuous, sloshing sea.
Seth is a reluctant teenage deckhand on his father's commercial fishing boat when he and his dog are washed overboard one rough night in Prince William Sound. By good fortune, they are swept to one of the hundreds of small islands that line Alaska's southern coast. They struggle to survive off land and sea as they slowly work their way homeward, from island to island, facing starvation, rain, cold, sunstroke, bears, tankers, and hardest of all, isolation. As summer passes and autumn arrives, Seth's father endures his own emotional journey, and never gives up searching for his son, whom everyone else presumes dead. The months of solitude allow Seth to finally understand his father's love, accept his Native Alaskan heritage, and come to terms with his grief over his mother's death.
Leveling: Common Core and Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading levels by Read-Ability
“With metaphoric elements and emotional catharses, the newest novella from John Smelcer…deliver[s] a unique survival story set in Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska…. Edge of Nowhere is a survival story, but one with a strong heart.”
“Smelcer gives readers a crash course in Alaskan history, geography, and lore in a survival story that pits a teenager against nature’s indifference…. A thought-provoking and moving coming-of-age story.”
“A riveting, picturesque, trial-to-triumph tale…. Smelcer encapsulates the Alaskan landscape with the sheer authenticity only a Native could deliver…. Smelcer's interweaving of Alaska Native language, legend, anecdotal folklore, as well as local history throughout, makes…for an engaging [and] highly informative read. By way of remarkably poetic storytelling, [he] draws a flawless parallel between the unrelenting strength of nature and the indefatigable determination of the human spirit. Edge of Nowhere…is yet another gripping literary triumph for Smelcer.”
—Midwest Book Review, Reviewer’s Choice
Awards for UK edition (Anderson Press/Random House)
- National Literary Trust’s 2010 National Young Reader’s Recommended Booklist Selected Book, Young Teen Fiction Award (UK)
- Short-listed for the 2011 Hull Award for Children’s Literature (UK)
Praise for the UK edition
“A hard-edged adventure story.” —The Guardian
“A powerful novella that grips you tight and doesn’t let go.” —The Bookseller
John Smelcer is the poetry editor of Rosebud magazine and the author of more than forty books. He is an Alaskan Native of the Ahtna tribe, and is now the last tribal member who reads and writes in Ahtna. John holds degrees in anthropology and archaeology, linguistics, literature, and education. He also holds a PhD in English and creative writing from Binghamton University, and formerly chaired the Alaska Native Studies program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
His first novel, The Trap, was an American Library Association BBYA Top Ten Pick, a VOYA Top Shelf Selection, and a New York Public Library Notable Book. The Great Death was short-listed for the 2011 William Allen White Award, and nominated for the National Book Award, the BookTrust Prize (England), and the American Library Association’s Award for American Indian YA Literature. His Alaska Native mythology books include The Raven and the Totem (introduced by Joseph Campbell). His short stories, poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, and he is winner of the 2004 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award and of the 2004 Western Writers of America Award for Poetry for his collection Without Reservation, which was nominated for a Pulitzer. John divides his time between a cabin in Talkeetna, the climbing capitol of Alaska, where he wrote much of Lone Wolves, and Kirksville Mo., where he is a visiting scholar in the Department of Communications Studies at Truman State University.