Winner, Best First Book, Saskatchewan Book Awards (1998)
A year in the lives, dreams and awakenings of the Protheroe family. Baby Dion is brain-damaged at birth, yet he is a sweet and powerful influence on his parents, his five sisters and his grandparents. Under his spell, the reader travels through the minds of three generations: a group of wonderfully individual people who nevertheless define family in a wholly original and exciting way.
“The Lavender Child reminds me of the best of Anne Tyler and Barbara Kingsolver, confident, witty, tender and smart... An auspicious debut, sassy, clear-eyed and beautifully told.” – Sandra Birdsell
Winner, Fiction of the Year; Shortlisted, Book of the Year, Saskatchewan Book Awards, 2013
Few writers have Harriet Richards’ understanding of childhood, and fewer still can evoke the never-lost child at the heart of our adult experience. As in her previous, critically-acclaimed books, this collection is deft, comic, and poignant, but there is malice and tragedy at work in these stories — their gaiety and cool observation counterbalance the troubled lives they explore.
In the brilliantly imagined title story two young girls become guardian angels to an emaciated drifter with a very dark secret. Their innocence is an armour against the danger that simmers, below adult knowledge, around a northern lake. Innocence, both tough and vulnerable, is at play in many of these stories: Ava, in “A Great Wrong” carries the guilt of a childhood betrayal and revenge; Olivia’s role as confidante, in “Bagatelle”, channels the absurdities and fragility of clumsy, hopeful lives. “In the Direction of the Three Sisters” is a sad, ironic protest at life’s unfairness. Trust is the most perilous adventure in Richards’ stories, but every one of her characters takes that risk. Their candour in the face of what follows is the book’s enduring delight.
Shortlisted, Book of the Year, Saskatchewan Book Awards, 2003
The men and women in these stories, and perhaps most of all the children, make their own sense of a world where "There are forces at play so simple, natural, and accidental that nobody can figure them out and see them coming." It is a world, too, in which "there's lots more sorrow flying around people's heads than there is joy." That sorrow may be heartbreaking, occasionally it is horrific; but the reader is constantly reminded, with the quiet, clear-eyed and sometimes mischievous irony of Harriet Richards' voice, that in this world and — in the least likely places — we may entertain angels unawares.