________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 16 . . . . April 10, 1998

cover The Lavender Child.

Harriet Richards.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1997.
230 pp., paper, $13.95.
ISBN 1-995449-72-3.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.

**1/2 /4

As the book opens, it's September, and Louise Protheroe is in the final trimester of her sixth pregnancy. She is bone-weary. This one was tough. She was always tired, her iron count was low.... Thirty-eight years old and having another damned baby. She was thankful for the girls; they were so thrilled and there would be no end of babysitters for him - but she felt like a prize breeding sow. Everything that happened as big news, every prenatal visit to the doctor, every urine test was subject of family discussion. The girls played favourite music to her abdomen, stroked and talked to it, consulted it like an oracle. ... Louise, the worthy vessel. The Bump was their mystery, alive but invisible, warm and untouchable. ... A blessed person.

      However, when baby Dion is born, his condition is anything but a blessing. Both Louise and the baby nearly die during the birth, and Dion's suffering continues: he is brain-damaged. Typically, the birth of a disabled child is a devastating event and causes tremendous strain, both for the parents and the other children of the family. But, the Protheroes soldier on, dealing with the day-to-day business of life, remarkably unfazed by the demands and difficulties of coping with a mentally-challenged child.

      The book is essentially a "year-in-the-life" of the Protheroes, and truly, not a great deal out of the ordinary happens. They cope with annoying neighbours, aging parents, the unfulfilled dreams and nostalgic memories of mid-life, and concerns about the future. The Lavender Child is a pleasant enough read, and Richards writes some wonderfully lyrical descriptions of dreams. The book would, however, have limited appeal to adolescent readers - there's just not enough action or focus on characters of their age. Older readers might respond to the lyricism of the dream passages, but I finished the book expecting and wanting something more.

Recommended with reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364