Irises to Ashes by Charlie Hudson

Irises to Ashes
Charlie Hudson
Outskirts Press (2011)
ISBN 9781432773892
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/11)


Maggie Stewart is just an ordinary girl, growing up in an ordinary family and contemplating very ordinary things in her ordinary life, never even thinking of leaving Outer Banks. But then she meets Amelia Hatcher, the unusual elderly woman, who for many years now has hardly ever been seen by anybody in the village. And so began the educational experience of a lifetime for Maggie, one that will offer her never before imagined possibilities and opportunities to truly become what she wants and not what her parents expect of her. With a little bit of help from her mother, as well as incredible support and assistance from Amelia, Maggie ends up going to France for an apprenticeship, which leads her to a great career in her chosen field. She stays in touch with Amelia throughout the older woman’s life, and is also chosen by her to fulfill some of her last wishes, in the process learning much about life in general, as well as the secrets that Amelia kept to herself for many decades.

“Irises to Ashes” is an inspirational story, which very successfully points out how we truly are in charge of our own destiny and how we can achieve just about anything with proper determination and hard work, particularly if we are blessed with good friends, who help us at every step of our journey. It is a story of growing up, a story of growing old gracefully, a story of learning to forgive and learning to believe, and a story of love, trust, betrayal and loss.

While I’ve enjoyed the story in general, I found it very slow in its middle part, and not particularly engrossing. The last few chapters, those dealing with Amelia’s past, were by far the most interesting, and I found myself wishing that a much larger portion of the book would have been devoted to the older woman’s story instead. I never really warmed up to Maggie, maybe because it took her such a long time to truly accept any kind of a real commitment into her life. I’ve enjoyed re-visiting many of the locales I’m very familiar with, particularly Paris and Nice. French language and culture have a central role in this story, which made me even more disappointed in the truly bad French used in the dialogue throughout the book. While I could have excused Maggie, the American, for making mistakes, I could find no such excuse for the appalling quality of French used by the native French speakers as well. There is no such thing as “y” used as a conjunction in French; it should be “et.” The former is actually Spanish. One of my favorite wines is a Vouvray, which in the book was renamed into a Vouvary. The famous promenade in Nice is “Promenade des Anglais,” not “Promenade Anglais.” Most every sentence in French was incorrect, and I find that such lack of attention to detail diminishes author’s credibility in general. When a foreign language plays such a prominent role in a story, it should be rendered correctly, or else any intended saveur will be completely lost.

“Irises to Ashes”, in spite of the above mentioned issues, was a heart-warming and inspirational book, which I would gladly recommend to dreamers and believers alike.

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