by Hannah Nyala
The sharp eye and quick mind that helped Hannah Nyala find lost hikers (as a National Parks Service rescue worker in the Mojave Desert) were traits she honed through bitter personal experience—while trying to escape and hide from a husband who “regularly beat or choked me unconscious,” she writes. In Point Last Seen, Nyala interweaves compelling accounts of her Mississippi upbringing and evolution into an expert tracker with harrowing stories of domestic violence at the hands of the shy, seemingly kind man she first met at a church camp meeting and then married when she was only 17.
By far the most fascinating sections of the book are her detailed accounts of the searches that fan out from the Point Last Seen—the starting point for every tracker anxiously seeking the trail of a missing person—following each footprint and bent twig in a desperate attempt to rescue the living or find the dead. We track Nyala herself as she reunites with her children, remarries, redivorces, and endures continuing ordeals over custody. Nyala eventually went to Africa to research tracking in the Kalahari Desert—and returned home to write this moving narrative of the lost and the found, of suffering, courage and redemption. (Beacon, $21)