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Book review: 'The Emerald Mile' is captivating ride on the Colorado River

By Tara Creel

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 27 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

"THE EMERALD MILE: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon," by Kevin Fedarko, Scribner, $30, 432 pages (nf)

As a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park, former senior editor for Outside magazine and author of articles appearing in numerous magazines from Time to National Geographic, there's no doubting Kevin Fedarko's ability to accurately tell the story of "The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon."

His poetic and descriptive writing should only brighten his accolades and helps his non-fiction book read like a fast-paced fiction adventure.

From the sight of the moon or the mechanics in building a dam, Fedarko paints a picture with his words as if he had explored with John Wesley Powell himself or yielded a jack-hammer with the high-scalers in Black Canyon.

It isn't necessary to be a history buff or whitewater expert to enjoy this story. Fedarko teaches history, terminology and legend without making it boring.

The first portion of "The Emerald Mile" focuses on the discovery and history of the Colorado River, starting in Utah and highlighting the Grand Canyon portion. Fedarko informs the reader about the importance of the preservation of the river, the building of dams and what the flood meant that August day in 1983.

Fedarko finishes with telling the legend of the "speed run" that still holds the all-time speed record on the 277-mile stretch of river from Glen Canyon to the Grand Wash Cliffs.

Fedarko's narrative can feel like sitting in the dory right next to Gru and his two companions, feeling the spray of the whitewater and stretching stiff fingers from holding the oars night and day.

Fedarko inserts maps and photos to bring the story to life, and starts each chapter with quotes from key historical figures.

With meticulous research, notes and epilogue, Fedarko tells a satisfying story that is quite an entertaining ride.

If you go ...

What: Kevin Fedarko book signing

When: Wednesday, July 31, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: This event is jointly sponsored by The King's English and The Wallace Stegner Center.

Tara Creel is a Logan native and mother of three boys. Her email is taracreel@gmail.com.

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