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Sawyer, Don.

Winnipeg, Pemmican Publications Inc., 1988. 147pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-921827-06-7. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Where the Rivers Meet is Don Sawyer's first novel. He uses interior B.C. as the imaginary setting for a story that illustrates the conflict between reality on the reserve (poor housing, limited opportunity, individual apathy or anger) and community bafflement with the values of the world outside the reserve.

This work is positive in tone rather than negative, and it shows a young native girl's metamorphosis into a youthful leader. If there is a criticism of the book, it is that Nancy Antoine's almost magical infusion of confidence leads too quickly and far too easily to a promise that the native people in the Shuswap region will be able to start their own school. Bureaucratic decisions are rarely so rapid. On the other hand, the book has been meticulously crafted, and one senses clearly the resentment and mistrust on the part of native people, who have lost much of their traditional raison d'etre.

Nancy's spirit quest for self-confidence and strength through struggle is the high point of the book, and this section is compelling and believable. The young girl timidly visits an elder, Cecile Schmidt, who teaches and guides her through a series of rituals that turn Nancy from an embittered teenager into a clear-eyed and far more mature young woman. The sweating process, the immersions, meditation, fasting, running and, most of all, the solitary communing with animals, birds and spirit forces in the forest create in Nancy a strength to find her rightful place in a world that is different from her grandparents', yet is essentially the same in that the individual must fit in and find the self-knowledge to cope with the pressures imposed by society.

Adele Case, Britannia. Secondary School, Vancouver, B.C.
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