Thursday, October 24, 2013
After Iris, by Natasha Farrant
The emotions drive this book, so it seems quiet at times, but we know the characters are moving toward a place where they must either recover or crash and burn. Blue handles life by viewing it through a video camera, and the moment she finally explains why is one of my favorites in the book: "Outside the camera, there are no limits...more cities and prairies and mountains and cars, and they're all places and people you don't know but which exist anyway. Inside the camera, the world is limited to what you can see through the viewfinder. If you don't like it, you can change it. Or, with the flick of a button, you can switch it off. You just say goodbye, world. Time to go. Like dying, but not quite so final." Though Blue feels she is the only one of her family who properly remembers Iris, she gradually learns that her younger siblings are grief-stricken at remembering so little, and that Flora has been trying to escape and find little happinesses wherever she can precisely because she remembers so very keenly. The same is true of the parents, which fortunately creates some sympathy for them. Really, I spent most of the book wanting to give them a good swift kick, for they truly are neglectful. I cheered when Zoran, the odd caretaker with whom the kids get off to a bumpy start but later come to love, stands up for himself and tells the adults that with all due respect, he is not the parent.
The anniversary of Iris's death is Christmas Eve, and as December approaches, it appears Christmas will be a complete washout this year. One morning, Blue wakes up and the younger two are gone; after a frantic search in two feet of new snow it becomes apparent that Twig and Jas have set off on a train to go get Father and bring him home. In chaotic and improbable fashion, the entire family arrives home for Christmas, and though everything isn't tied up in a perfect bow, we are given to understand that the family will live together from now on. As I said, there were plenty of times I wanted to shake both parents, and I didn't find Mum's sudden declaration that she was going to quit her job completely convincing. But the ending is warm and satisfying without being over-emotional. This book takes a not-all-that-original premise and plot and proves once again that the characters and the writing can win the day. Recommended.