Study Guide

Dancing on the Edge Summary

By Han Nolan

Dancing on the Edge Summary

On the night of a séance trying to contact Miracle's dead mother, her father, Dane, disappears into thin air, leaving only his clothing behind at his desk. Miracle's life hasn't exactly been easy—she was born four and a half months premature after her mother's death and lives with her grandmother, Gigi, who's obsessed with the occult—but things get thrown into full-on turmoil after Gigi declares that Dane has "melted."

Because Dane was a famous child prodigy author whose first book was published when he was thirteen, his disappearance draws a lot of negative attention to Gigi, so she decides they're going to move from their home in Birmingham, Alabama, to Georgia to live with Miracle's grandfather, Grandaddy Opal. This would be cool and everything, except Gigi and Granddaddy Opal kind of got divorced years ago, so living together again is a little bizarre, to say the least.

Still, Miracle and Granddaddy Opal develop a friendship despite Gigi's distaste for the man. When Miracle tells him that her dream is to take dance lessons, he goes behind Gigi's back to make it happen.

Things are pretty good for a while. Granddaddy Opal keeps sneaking Miracle off to dance classes, gets her a bicycle to fix up and ride so she can join him on his paper routes, and he and Gigi even start being civil with each other.

Still, though, it's not enough to make Miracle forget about Dane. She's kind of obsessed with him in a sad, creepy way—she wears his ratty old bathrobe to school and sets up the basement so it looks like Dane's room at their old house. When Granddaddy Opal shows Miracle a book about black holes, she begins to think Dane went back in time to prevent her mother's death, and that one day soon, both of them will come back for her.

On Miracle's thirteenth birthday, her grandparents plan a party and Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole come to Georgia to celebrate. Gigi and Opal's respective new boyfriend and girlfriend, Eugene and Emmaline, also join them. Yay, right? Plus, Miracle is convinced that today will be the day that Dane and her mother return.

When Opal hears that a tornado is coming, though, he herds everyone into the basement for safety… and they discover Miracle's replica of Dane's bedroom. Everyone begins to argue about how weird it is. Things only get more complicated when Emmaline, who's a gospel singer, shatters the conflict by singing "Amazing Grace." Miracle starts dancing, and Gigi immediately realizes that Opal has been secretly taking Miracle to dance lessons and a big fight breaks out.

What happens next isn't pretty. Granddaddy Opal's house is destroyed in the tornado, and to make matters worse, he has a heart attack. At the hospital, it's decided that Granddaddy will move in with Emmaline and Gigi will move in with Eugene. Meanwhile, Miracle will go back to Alabama on her own to live with Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole. Gigi assures Miracle that it's totally temporary and that they'll be back with Granddaddy Opal just as soon as his house gets rebuilt.

Miracle has been at Casey and Toole's house for several months when she gets a letter from Gigi saying that she and Eugene eloped to Greece and now live in Tennessee. Because of this, Casey decides that Miracle will stay on with her and Toole permanently. So much for temporary…

This isn't a great setup for Miracle, mainly because Toole is cheating on Casey, who is too busy pursuing a degree in psychology to spend time with Miracle. In their absence, Miracle tries to get attention from her peers at school by doing love spells for the popular kids. She's also kind of creeped out because this nerdy girl named Juleen is always watching her.

Miracle gets sick and has to stay home from school one day halfway through the school year. Juleen comes to her house and brings her homework, as well as a copy of a poetry book. She tells Miracle that everyone at school knows she's a fake because one of her spells didn't work and tries to explain to her that the kind of magic Gigi does isn't real. Miracle gets really angry, and after Juleen leaves, she sets herself on fire.

Severely burned, Miracle ends up in the psych ward of a hospital, where she begins to see a psychologist named Dr. DeAngelis. She's blocked out portions of the incident and is in therapy in hopes of piecing her life back together. Along with Aunt Casey, they begin talking about what really happened to her mother: She was also a dancer, but her dreams were derailed when she had a whirlwind romance with Dane and got pregnant. While Miracle has been told that her mother's encounter with the ambulance was an accident, it turns out that it was actually suicide.

Now that Miracle knows the truth, the stage is set for her to begin processing her past, building a relationship with Aunt Casey, and living happily ever after—but not so fast. Gigi shows up and kidnaps her from the hospital, and Miracle actually wants to go with her. Terrified and confused by her new knowledge, she'd rather run back into Gigi's fantasy world than face reality. On the car ride to Tennessee, Miracle recalls the portions of her fire incident that she's blocked out and realizes that she has believed Gigi is a fake ever since Juleen's visit.

Gigi ditches Miracle at a bus station, and she calls Aunt Casey to come pick her up. She also learns that Granddaddy Opal is at the hospital to visit her and is doing much better after his heart trouble. Now that she knows the whole truth about her life, Miracle decides to stop letting lies and superstitions determine who she is and resolves to recover and build a new life for herself.