SHADOWS IN MY HANDS by Jane Candia Coleman


A Southwestern Odyssey
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 An elliptically told journey to selfhood through a landscape of transcendent beauty, lyrically evoked by a recipient of two Western Heritage Awards for her writing. In loosely sequential but self-contained essays, Coleman (Stories from Mesa Country, 1991, etc.) describes how early visits to the Southwest--where she ``set out to learn the people, the mysteries, with the unwitting help of an old man, Archie, grandson of pioneer settlers''--would ultimately change her life. There, the author ``forged a bond'' with this old man in a place where ``the mountains turned crimson in the twilight and the months of summer shimmered in the sun.'' Every year she returned with her family ``to its people, its horses, its clear beauty high in the mountains loved above all others; the place that for six years and in the absence of another, I called home.'' Coleman participated fully in the life there: rounding up cattle from mountain pastures, helping brand them, and driving trucks. Later, when her marriage broke up, she acknowledged that she'd become ``an uncomprehending victim of psychological and verbal abuse'' who'd nonetheless ``managed to preserve the core of self'' where she existed. She walked out of her house, pointed her car toward the West, and--with grants to research the life of Mattie Earp, second wife of Wyatt--traveled through the small towns of the region, then rented `` `Rancho Milagro,' Miracle Ranch'' in Arizona--a ``place that is the essence of timelessness.'' But the author's journey reached its apogee on the desolate ranch she finally bought, a ``place of instant recognition.'' There, she settled, ``put down roots, planted trees and a garden,'' and wrote ``the words that demand release.'' At times mannered but redeemed by Coleman's fierce--and eloquently expressed--love for a place of austere beauty and the ``thunderous presence of the natural world.''

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8040-0972-4
Page count: 117pp
Publisher: Swallow Press/Ohio Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993


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