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“This was the first morning of the rest of my life without David.”

I am humbled by the accomplishment of friend and first-time author, Rae Ann Norell. Her newly published book, Broke Hungry & Happy; The Life of Dangerous Dave Norell, stands as a tribute to her son and to her own tenacity.  As a member of her writers’ group, Boise Word Spinners, I enjoyed the privilege and thrill of listening to and observing this story come to life during our bi-monthly meetings.

The first two thirds of the book paints the portrait of a boy on his voyage toward manhood. We learn what makes this young man tick—his uncommon drive for excellence in a sport and a lifestyle understood by only a handful of people. In heartbreaking retrospect, it seems that Dangerous Dave Norell operated from some internal life clock that pushed him to explore, entertain, and exceed expectation—a lifetime’s worth of adventure and passion squeezed into a heartbreaking 24-year blip. David’s first-person account in this section of the book utilizes extensive name and creek dropping, meant to honor and acknowledge not just his own accomplishments, but the deep friendships that he nurtured during his brief life. River rats will relate to this section, visualizing the waves, holes, drops, and slides that quicken the blood of whitewater kayakers, rafters, and canoers around the world.

Adults and parents, in particular, will relate to the last third of the book. This section, told through the eyes, voice, and heart of the author—David’s mother—speaks of the indescribable shock and horror of losing your child. The loss of a child transcends all life’s losses. There is no way to prepare for such a loss. Recovery is an infinitely slow process that will never be entirely realized. The best we may hope for is to stitch together the outer wounds, to stave the loss of blood, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, living one day after the last.

Rae Ann’s dedication to the completion of this project was part of her healing process. She has created a tribute to her son that will outlast her own memories and inspire others who are seeking respite from loss or searching for meaning within their own lives.