My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Iris Grace” is a completely charming memoir. The titular child lives with autism, and her parents are determined to help her out of her silent world. They try various recommended methods to no avail, and then author Arabella Carter-Johnson gets the idea to acquire a cat. Thula is a Maine Coon, and she somehow manages to get through to Iris immediately. From the day Thula comes home, Iris makes decided, if slow, improvements in her communication. Soon, she is interested in music, all sorts of animals, bicycling, and more. Her favorite thing is painting, and her Impressionistic works find their home on an internet gallery that results in a great many people knowing Iris’ story.
The author is frank about the challenges she and her family faced as they dealt with autism. Many an outing had to be cut short because Iris would become overstimulated … but if they could take Thula, things generally went more smoothly. The young parents’ marriage sometimes felt the strain as well, since Iris sometimes seemed unable to deal with her father’s presence. Still, everyone around the Carter-Johnsons was determined to help them work through it all.
I enjoyed the author’s narrative voice, as well as several of her anecdotes unrelated to Iris. She had been a horse trainer at one point, and it turns out that she and I had both taken Monty Roberts’ Join-Up course. She also shared stories of the family’s outings to sites I have enjoyed, such as Warwick Castle, which made the text come alive for me.
I also developed a much greater understanding of autism as a result of this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to know more.