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Irises is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Francisco X. Stork.

Eighteen year old Kate is headed for college and an MD. Sixteen year old Mary is happy to imagine herself home and painting as often as possible. As sisters, they are not alike but they do share in being inhibited by their caring but domineering father. Things have been tougher ever since their mother entered a vegetative state after the accident. Things were different before. Lighter. Happier. For all of them.

But when their father suddenly dies, Kate and Mary must figure out how to support themselves and their comatose mother. Simon, Kate’s stable, dependable boyfriend offers marriage – a means of support and love, from his point of view. From Kate’s point of view, however, she’s not so sure. Her ambition has been tempered by her dad, and now she’s not sure if pursuing those dreams is selfish or legitimate. Andy, their new, young reverend, recognizes drive in her that reminds him of himself and provides advice… and maybe more.

Mary struggles with her increasing lack of passion for painting. Her heart is broken by it, and she feels her sister isn’t open with her. Being introverted and quiet, the arrival of fellow student Marcos in her periphery both draws her in and frightens her. He has a violent past and a shady present, yet his smile and eyes seems to shine with truth and goodness.

In the back of both sisters’ minds is one all-consuming worry: their mother. Every decision revolves around how they’ll care for both themselves and her, without their father’s help.

And it’s a decision that could tear them apart forever…

Irises is a difficult novel to give a decent synopsis for. Please forgive me if it sounds less than appealing. The thing is, oftentimes contemporary fiction is far more about the emotional depth and character development in the ordinary moments of ordinary lives – which can make is hard to sound super-duper exciting. That’s the case here.

Yet, Irises has a quiet, genuine tone that transcends melodrama and settles into a mostly harmonious portrayal of the family behavior of love and toleration that is suddenly turned topsy-turvy by an unexpected loss. Their deep grief shows itself in varying forms, but is clear in both Kate and Mary. It’s poignant, melancholy and profoundly real.

Francisco X. Stork staggers me by being one of the few male authors that writes young female characters very well. They are empathetic, three-dimensional, and relatable. Their individual and entwined journeys are absorbing and softly meaningful.

So, as tough as it is to make Irises sound as amazing as, let’s say, the next big vampire book, it is. If not more. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and all these other fantastic genres, don’t get me wrong! But I like to foray into a slice of real world drama as well.

And Irises is a beautiful, tender novel that focuses on family and personal growth with maturity and authenticity. It’s a memorable story that, I believe, deserves a spot on your shelf.


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