Title: Irises [indie bound] [amazon]
Author: Francisco X. Stork [website]  [facebook]
Genre:  Contemporary
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Series: None
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: Publisher
Reviewer: Michelle
Parental Advisory: alcohol, sexual situations, language
Teachable Moments: individuality, sacrifice, faith

“But the thought that she wanted to let Mama go for her own convenience stuck in her head like a painful splinter she could not remove. She’s no longer alive. Reverend Soto’s words kept coming back to her.”

Summary (from the publisher):
Two sisters: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. — if her family will let her go.  mary wants only to stay home and paint.  When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegitative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.

Three young men: Then three men sway their lives: Kate’s boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much needed stability.  Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.

One agonizing choice: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom.  But it’s Mama’s life that might divide them for good — the question of if she lives, and what’s worth living for.

Opinion:
Two very understated teen-aged sisters are suddenly faced with responsibility of taking care of themselves and their incapacitated mother after the unexpected death of their Pastor father.  An unassuming gentleman, who is quite devout in his faith, was overbearing in his care-taking of the girls. Some might say domineering in his expectations of their behavior and choices for the future. His laser focus and tight hold on them is certainly influenced by his faith but he is also guided by the fact that his beloved wife is incapacitated.  As such his expectation that the girls be her primary care takers while he tends to his church assures that one or both of them will be required to change their future plans to assure their mothers continued well-being.

Ugh, so, yea….I totally didn’t connect with this book. At all.

First, the writing style (while very good) was so particular.  It took me a great deal of time to wade through the prose to get to the point of it’s meaning.  A great deal of work.  Further it was so slowly paced that I had a difficult time caring for the characters or the plot.  I just wanted to get somewhere.  The very intense and somber tone of the story also contributed to the feeling that I was slogging through it.

I had as much difficulty connecting to Mary and Kate.  Each of them were so distant and closed off that I couldn’t bring myself to root for them.  I wanted to have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel for each of them.  Something positive or hopeful, yet I never felt as if that came to fruition.  It was one horrible event or decision after another.  Kate in particular rubbed me the wrong way with her complete and total selfishness.  She very clearly wanted her life to play out in a certain way and if that meant throwing Mary to the wolves she was going to do it.  Mary, being the subservient daughter who always does as she’s told was an easy mark.  She never quite got to the point where she was completely able to stand up for herself or what she wanted.  Even when she did speak out or embrace her own desires she was left guilt-ridden.

Having heard such raves for Stork’s prior work I admit I had high expectations for this book.  It could be that, given those high hopes, my disappointment in this book stems a great deal from that anticipation and hope.  This can’t be disregarded as a major impact on my opinion to be sure.

I do think it’s important to note that this book is ideal for the classroom.  There are so many aspects that can be discussed.  Outside of the difficult relationship the sisters had with each other there is the relationship they both shared with their mother.  Her presence in their lives was overwhelming.  Outside of the love they held for her there is this pull for both that if they let her go they would be truly free to chase their own dreams.  Such starts the debate (and at times heated argument) about whether to turn off life support or not.  The philosophical debates of what constitutes life and whether their mother really is there with them at all. This tied into some of the faith-based undertones in the story as well.

While Irises was not necessarily the best fit for me I do believe it to be a well written book that has the ability to impact a great many readers.  I’d be interested to hear from people who really enjoyed it.  Perhaps their experience can enlighten mine.