Even before the accident that put their mother in a persistent vegetative state, Kate and Mary Romero led a very sheltered existence. So now, after the sudden death of their minister father, they find themselves with a lot of freedom and whole lot of responsibility—including long-term care of their mother, who is unlikely to ever wake up.
Suddenly, Kate's secret dream of leaving El Paso to attend Stanford in the fall is both more possible and more impossible. She won't have to battle her father for permission to go, but if she does, who will take care of her younger sister? And who will take care of their mother?
Mary, meanwhile, is dealing with her own troubles. She's wanted to be a painter ever since she could pick up a brush, but despite her talent, she's never been taken seriously by her family—or, at least, not by her father and Kate. Since her mother's accident, she hasn't been able to focus on art, and it feels like a piece of her is missing.
Together—and through the relationships they develop with three very different young men—they'll find their way through their grief, navigate their more practical concerns, and into their future.
I was a big fan of Stork's first book, Marcelo in the Real World. I loved Marcelo—his voice and his story—from the first page. I'm having a much harder time nailing down my feelings about Irises.
In the pro-column, once I got into the rhythm of the narration, I quickly developed an interest in the girls and in their situation, the emotions rang true, the storyline was engaging, and all that good stuff. I do think that some readers will take to it, though I think it'll be a smaller audience than Marcelo.
That's assuming that they're able to get past the prologue, though, which reads like a misty-eyed perfect memory flashback on a daytime soap—and, to be fair, is supposed to, I think*—but also feels strangely stiff and formal, like something out of a Nancy Drew book:
"Kate!" Mother laughed. She ran after the girls. Kate cornered Mary by the chain-link fence and dabbed her sister's arms and face with paint. Mother tried to take the brush from Kate's hand and ended up with a brown splotch on her forehead.
The three of them burst out laughing.
I mean, replace Mother, Kate and Mary with Nancy, Bess and George, and it would be right at home in a book called The Clue in the Minister's Rolodex.
Like I said, though, judging by the storyline, the characters and the rest of the book, the prose style was a deliberate choice on the author's part. So while the logical side of me thinks that the language works the way Stork meant it to, the rest of me found the book significantly less satisfying—and certainly less enjoyable, because I felt like I was always fighting the prose, rather than being drawn along by it—than Marcelo.
*Well, the daytime soap thing probably wasn't deliberate. But the combination of misty memory and zany hijinks is very Days.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.