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2012 Review: Outcasts of River Falls

Outcasts of River Falls book cover

Outcasts of River Falls:
Published By Coteau Books for Kids
Written By Jacqueline Guest
242 Pages
Book Review By Christine McFarlane

Imagine growing up in a well-to-do home but because of a family death, having to move away from what you have always known to Alberta to live with an aunt you have never met. Now imagine learning that your familial roots are not what you were led to believe.

In ‘Outcasts of River Falls,’ the main character Kathryn experiences the loss of her father due to illness and has to leave her comfortable home and upper class school in Toronto to live with an aunt she has never met. Upon her arrival to Alberta, she is shocked to find out where she will be living, that the aunt she is going to be living with is not who she expected and discovers that her father had fled his home community to escape a problem he had no control over- ‘being Metis.’

An historical book, ‘Outcast of River Falls’ details a young girl’s journey of learning about her mixed identity and the troubles that come along with it.† Kathryn’s Aunt Belle does a great job of explaining the history of the Metis people of River Falls to her niece and does everything she can to make Kathryn comfortable with what she has.
It’s almost comical at first but also sad how Kathryn was used to living in a comfortable home and having money, and then upon her arrival in River Falls, she has to learn a whole new way of life. She goes from having people do things for her, to having to learn how to do things for herself, like fetching water to wash the dishes, using an outhouse, building her own bedroom in the shack she now has to live in, and using a horse and buggy for transportation.

Her indignation at how the people of River Falls are treated is typical of how present day relations of First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities can be seen by those who don’t understand a rich and complex history. There is also an element of mystery in ‘Outcast of River Falls’ because there is a mysterious Highwayman that appears, that the local officials want to get rid of. The mystery is discovering who this Highwayman is.

“Outcast of River Falls” is a sequel to Metis writer Jacqueline Guest’s book “Belle of Batoche.” Like other books written by Guest, this book is unique in the sense that the main characters are well drawn out and face issues that are common to every child, such as bullying, blended families, physical challenges, and personal journeys into discovering who they are and what they can be. This book is great for young readers, and is a great page-turner.