Though their time together didn’t start until somewhat later in life and was cut tragically short, it is clear that Karen and Kelly James were soul-mates who were simply meant to be together. Holding Fast is the story of Karen’s and Kelly’s lives together, culminating with the recounting of the tragic climbing accident on Mount Hood that took the lives of Kelly and his two climbing partners. Though the outcome of the true life events that are the subject of this book are known going in, that in no way detracts from the power of the story.
The outpouring of support, both from rescue personnel and those offering prayer and emotional support, was overwhelming and heartwarming to read about. Because Kelly had a cell phone, Karen and the rescuers were able to have intermittent contact with Kelly and knew, for the most part, exactly where he was on the mountain. Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions made it impossible for the rescue team to mount a successful ascent to Kelly until it was too late.
Karen’s recounting of the phone calls she was able to have with Kelly while he was trapped on the mountain are brutally honest and reflect the conflicting emotions she had while doing so; blessed to be fortunate enough to have an opportunity for a last goodbye, yet devastated to hear how clearly he was struggling and deteriorating, both knowing he would not be coming down off the mountain alive.
It is truly ironic that Karen’s great-grandfather, George William Barrett, also died in a climbing accident, something she didn’t know until after Kelly’s death. However, unlike her great-grandmother who “died of a broken heart” six months after Barrett’s death, Karen called on her faith to get her through both the harrowing days spent trying to rescue Kelly and the void left when he died. Her story should serve as an inspiration for all those who’ve lost someone under tragic circumstances.