Book Review: Holding Fast, by Karen James

In December 2006, my home state of Oregon was getting all sorts of national media coverage, and none of it was good. In early December, the Kim family – wife, husband, and two daughters from California – got lost traveling a logging road in the Southern Oregon snow. The father died from exposure while trying to find help; the mother and daughters were found alive. Then just two weeks later, three climbers went missing on Mount Hood. Our hearts already broken for the Kim family’s loss, many Oregonians stayed glued to the news as the search for the hikers was complicated by horrible weather on the mountain. We were all hoping for the very best for these hikers and their families, but it would turn out to be another sad tragedy in our great state.

When I saw that Karen James, wife of one of the climbers lost on Mount Hood, had written a book about her family’s experiences, I was eager to read this story from her perspective. To me, she was a name and a face on my daily news during that dark month of December 2006. But in Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy, I got to meet her and her amazing family, hear the love story behind her marriage to Kelly James, and discover the lasting faith that carried her through her loss.

Holding Fast is a moving account of Karen’s unwanted journey. It’s written in a very conversational tone, creating an intimate atmosphere full of feeling. She gives precious insight into the passion that drove Kelly James to climb many of the world’s greatest mountains. She shows how her faith, and the faith of Kelly’s children, guided them through their unimaginable trials. She also pieces together details of Kelly’s final hours, providing a likely scenario for what happened on the mountain and how Kelly honored his family in the last moments of his life.

I enjoyed this book and read it in just a few hours. I felt glad to be taken into Karen James’ confidence and encouraged by the strength of her faith and the admonition she gives that we ought to appreciate every moment we have while our loved ones are here with us on earth.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for this review copy.


In the book, Karen talks about her interview with Katie Couric. To see the interview, VISIT THE CBS WEBSITE.

To see Karen James talk about this book, and the approach of the 2yr anniversary of her husband’s death, VISIT THE TODAY SHOW WEBSITE.

*Disclosure: Affiliate links included.