I first discovered Francisco X. Stork when I read and loved Marcello in the Real World, so I was excited to download Irises from the Sync YA website to listen to this past week. Irises is a very different kind of book from Marcello. It is a quiet book, but it has power in the questions it explores. I am still mulling over those questions of love and ambition days after finishing the story.
Kate and Mary, sisters, are left alone after the death of their strict father, a minister in the Church of God. Just before his death, Father told Kate that “love makes everything that is heavy light.” Kate struggles to understand and apply these words as she faces impossible choices that could tear her apart from her sister for good. Kate has dreamed of going to Stanford to become a doctor, but everyone expects her to marry her responsible boyfriend Simon, who offers to take care of them all. The church wants to evict them from the parsonage, but the new minister, Andy, tempts Kate to pursue her ambition no matter the cost to others. Driven by her ambition, Kate doubts and questions the faith she was brought up in.
Mary, a talented painter, faces her own struggles. She no longer has to fight her father to paint, but she’s not even sure she can paint anymore. Ever since her mother’s accident, she has lost the joy she once found in painting. No longer can she see, much less capture, the light she once saw flow from other people. Again and again she turns to her study of Van Gogh’s painting of two irises, but her colors seem lifeless. Then there is Marcos. This onetime gang member has raw artistic talent and keeps coming around to offer and ask for help. Through it all, Mary turns to her faith for comfort.
Then there are the choices Kate and Mary must face regarding their mother, who has been in a permanent vegetative state following a car accident two years ago. Should she live with them or in an institution? How will they be able to pay for her care? Would the most loving act be to let her go? These two sisters are very different in how they face the death of their father and the choices they must make in their lives. Will their choices bring them closer together or drive them completely apart?