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The Way We Make Sense
By Dawn Karima Pettigrew
Review by: Moira Richards

  1/1/04

ISBN: 1879960664

The way that we make sense of our lives is often, not an orderly and linear process. When we look back over the years we have lived, our understanding of our place in the world seems instead, to emerge from the patterns formed by the placements, the juxtapositions, and superimpositions of people, events and emotions as they accumulate about us. Some aspects of our lives may stand on their own, clear as a snapshot; others may be drawn ambiguously, to only acquire full significance when placed as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, in just the right place. The manner in which Dawn Karima Pettigrew has chosen to narrate the lives of Indiana and her daughter Manna captures this shifting type of reality.

In brief, Indiana Redpaint Turner was the one of her father's four daughters whom he decided, after careful consideration, that he could do without. So he promises her to a stranger in exchange for the price of a rodeo entry fee that he needs so desperately. Years later, when Indiana herself is a parent, she in turn manages to destroy her daughter's trust by turning Manna's only true love into a tree.

The Way We Make Sense comprises some four dozen short and very short poems, songs, and fragments of story. Each item captures a different facet of the tale of the tribulations and joys of these two women and the trials that Manna must endure before she finds love and spiritual healing from an odd assortment of strangers. Each piece has its own title and, that most of them can also stand alone as a piece of creative writing, is proved by the list of acknowledgements at the end of the book that detail where almost half of the snippets have previously been published.

A short book, The Way We Make Sense is a mere one hundred twenty-six pages, yet it is not one to be read through speedily in pursuit of the plot line. Rather, it is a story to be savoured slowly, with each vignette being mulled over as it adds to the picture and helps gently, to stretch the reader's perceptions beyond the bounds of the realm of the rational.

 




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