Fiction Review: Gutter Child by: Jael Richardson

Published by Harper Collins

I loved this novel! I will re-read it, I will recommend it, and I will gift it. But I have a confession… I didn’t want to read it. I knew Gutter Child was going to be an important book, and I knew that I should read it, but I really didn’t want to feel the discomfort that I knew it was going to bring up. Like many others, I’ve had a lot to think about this past year. On top of everything going on in the world, I’ve had my own *stuff* to address and, frankly, I just didn’t have the space.

I followed the launch of Gutter Child closely on social media and found that everything I read and listened to about this novel was appealing on a deep and accessible level. Specifically, I read blurb after blurb about Jael Richardson’s prowess at delicately addressing intensely difficult and sensitive topics. I wanted to know more. I found, watching from afar, an excitement brewing as Richardson climbed the bestseller lists and Gutter Child gained momentum. This novel perfectly fit the theme of Uproar, and so, I opened the book… 

Richardson’s accessible prose captures the emotional complexities around themes of otherness, home, family, and motherhood. From the first paragraph, I was transported into a world seen through the eyes of a stunningly crafted protagonist, Elimina.  

Elimina learns about her world from the invisible otherness of an outsider from within the “Gutter system” – a post-war colonial program forcing a vulnerable people into a walled environment and assigning inheritable debt that would keep them oppressed for generations.  Originally from “the Gutter”, Elimina is swept into an experimental social program as a newborn, placing her with a “Mainlander” to be raised. When her adoptive mother dies, Elimina must learn first hand what it means to be a “Gutter child”.

Richardson builds a world that is a little too easy to become enveloped by. This world evokes residential schools, apartheid, and the multitudes of social disaster surrounding colonialism. Richardson addresses these difficult topics with care and eloquence.

Jael Richardson’s Gutter Child is an instant classic and I am so grateful to have read it. This timely dystopian novel unpacks systemic oppression and colonialism with uncanny grace and accessibility. I encourage everyone interested in human experience, the definition of home, family and motherhood, and simply good literature to pick up this book. This immensely important novel will be read, and taught, for generations.

Reviewed by: Candice Suchocki Weir

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