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  • Writer's pictureJoy Slaughter

15.2 The Knot Motif

Megan has grown into her new self. She is attending college, focusing on her own growth. She has learned her limits and become aware of her own weaknesses and how to work with strength around them. She has cut her hair (always highly symbolic of great change, lol).

Just as Nathan reached a place of health, she is now there, too. That is solid ground for a great relationship.

They meet once more in the context of high-angle rescue, and here the reader sees the culmination of the prusik knot motif that has run throughout the entire story.

We first see knots mentioned in Afghanistan:


‘Thompson shrugged but made no move to stand. “I was gonna buy a ring when I got stateside.”

“You’ve got more life to live before you tie the knot, man.”’


This establishes a solid goal for Nathan: he wants to “tie the knot” and marry a loyal girl.

The next time we see this theme is on the training wall. The high-angle rescue practice was the means of showing Megan’s and Nathan’s first ties to each other (<--pun intended). She stands up for his ability, and we see that ropes have several layers of meaning. Nathan literally ties a knot to Megan. Second, it becomes a symbol of the supportive bond between them (she for his ability, he for her confidence). Third, knots represent ability and competence as we see the skill needed for high-angle.

On page 71, the knots return:


‘Cool air washed over Nathan’s face as he walked into the EMS room from the humid truck bay. Megan, with brow furrowed, sat at the table with a rope, a carabiner, and a length of Prusik cord.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Trying to tie knots and questioning my career choice.”


Here we see Megan’s attempt to tie knots (note the plural) is deeply tied to her emotional state, confidence, competence, her career, and her relationships.

_________________ He chuckled. “It can’t be that bad.”

She dropped the ropes, and the carabiner clattered across the table. “It’s pretty bad. I just want to be able to tie a good knot.”


Yes, her situation was bad. The abuse has not been revealed yet. Her confidence is a wreck, and she needs training in many areas.

But we see her goal: she wants to be able to tie a good knot in each of these areas. She wants to be free, to grow, and to have a solid relationship.


“You did fine on Monday,” he said, picking up the rope and wrapping it around his hand. _________________

Here he demonstrates his ability, not only with ropes, but to support her and lead her through the process of growth.

_________________ She leaned her chin on her palm. “I didn’t have to tie any fancy knots, now did I?”

“Exactly.” He finished a stopper knot and dropped it to the table. “You don’t need fancy knots. When would you ever use them?”


We will see through the story that it’s not flashy moment of rescue that build strength, character, and confidence. It is slow growth. Learning the basics. Becoming self-aware and holding to personal values.


“What if. What if. What if,” she said. “I can think of a million things that could go wrong on the side of a mountain.”


And there you have it. The final scene has been foreshadowed from the beginning.

Throughout the book, we see Megan play with the Prusik cord in her pocket. It is always associated with an agitated state, whether flashbacks, anger, fear, or new thoughts she had never considered before. Her ropes are a place of safety.

She is persistent. Tying, tying. Trying, trying again. As we see her grow as an individual, we can assume she also grows in rope tying skills.

Finally, on the side of the mountain, her harness breaks. Just as she rescued herself from her marriage and her situation, she uses her trusty Prusik to save herself.

This is no story of a knight in shining armor (though he is there). This is a story of deep and gritty growth where the damsel in distress must pick up her sword and act.

But the Prusik isn’t finished there. We learn that Todd was the one who put her in danger on the cliff, and when he tries again, she uses the Prusik cord and steel rescue 8 fitting to fight him off. Her own rescue, her own skills. And for final triumph, she binds him with the Prusik and says, “I may do many things wrong, but I can tie a damn knot!” Success.

And then the prize. Nathan arrives at her side, and all is well.

The knot motif is one of my favorite aspects of this book. When the book was first released, each book came with a bookmark made of narrow Prusik cord. It was a nice touch.


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