on August 12, 2008
This is the best book I have read since The Kite Runner. Someone who looks entirely normal and healthy may have food alergies that could result in life-threatening, even fatal results. And while this seems to be the main theme of Matter of Faith, Kiernan has woven other more common themes through the tale of the drastic situation created when a young girl is (intentionally?) fed a peanut butter cookie by her brother and his new girlfriend to test the girlfriend's adamant belief that only prayer, not medicine, is needed for healing.
The story is told by both the mother (Chloe) and the brother (Marshall). Through them we view all sorts of human conditions, beliefs and feelings: children of the same family who each need very special considerations; married partners who have never seen eye-to-eye on raising those children; the physchological results of an abusive childhood; searching for faith and what can happen when one "finds" it, possibly in all the wrong places.
This book MOVES. It reads swiftly. It read so TRUE that you cannot but feel you are living with Chloe and her family as she prepares to meet her college son's first real girlfriend,Ada, as she watches daughter Megan become entirely enchanted with Ada and fears husband Cal's cavalier association with his son on his return from school. What happens happens swiftly and the movement never stops, not even when we spend hours, days with Chloe and Cal in the hospital.
This book is intense without being the least bit "preach-y." There are no slow spots. The characters are so well drawn that you KNOW them, even the minor ones. And it has no platitudes, no actual reassurances except to leave you knowing that life is not about absolutele answers.
I have not encounted a book in a long time that I did not want to put down from the moment I read the first sentence of Matter of Faith. I dog-eared so many pages that the book looks "fat" lying on my nightstand. This is a book I will read AGAIN and SOON. I feel it would make a dynamite movie.
on November 29, 2008
I whizzed through this book in every spare moment of free time that I had over three days.
I read very little fiction these days, and I found it very refreshing to see food allergies play such an important part of a mainstream book.
I had myself convinced that Kristy Keirnan, the author, had to have a food allergic niece, nephew or good friend who had a child with food allergies. I was amazed when I found out that that was not the case.Kristy did such an incredible job of describing what it's like to live with someone who has life threatening food allergies.
I found myself actually peeking at the end, so concerned with the outcome. But as I got there, I found it very real and satisfying. It could have gone many different ways but I'm glad she chose the ending that she did.
on March 4, 2009
Matters of Faith is so genuine, I was certain Kristy Kiernan either had food allergies herself or was close to someone who does. Turns out neither is the case. Kiernan simply has a gift for empathy that shines through her writing.
I hope every parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbor, anyone who knows someone with a food allergy has the opportunity to read this book. The story is engaging and the reader becomes a part of the Tobias family as they deal with not only a medical crisis, but with family flaws that have been forced to the surface.
Grab a few tissues and be prepared for the ups and downs of a family who could just as easily live in your neighborhood.
on August 9, 2008
I adored Kiernan's first book, Catching Genius, but she's managed to top her stellar debut performance. Matters of Faith is a deeply moving story full of rich emotional detail, suspense, heartbreak, and redemption; I couldn't find a flaw in it. This is a book you'll want to read and think about and discuss and read again--perfect choice for book clubs! I'd give it six stars if I could!
on August 28, 2009
This book is about a family that has a child with life-threatening food allergies but it is also about so much more. You see, it is especially meaningful to me as , I too, have a child with life-threatening food allergies and know from first hand experience what it is like to raise a child with severe food allergies. Most parents who have children with food allergies like this are always on alert and cautious and our worst fear is that our child will be exposed to something that could literally take their life.
It was challenging to read parts of the book as they hit so close to home and were so realistic. This did not take away from the book for me at all. I loved the book and had trouble putting it down! I found the strength of the writing and characters extremely well done. The author alternates the narrative between the mother Chloe and the son Marshall which was very effective to delve into their deepest thoughts. After I finished the book, I felt like I knew the family. The author was able to describe their thoughts and emotions in a way that the reader felt connected to them in a personal way. It was painful at times to read about Meghan and her anaphylactic reaction and the situation that caused this. I could relate to Chloe on so many levels as a mom, as a mother of a food allergic child. The overprotectiveness I have in wanting to protect my own child but wanting to allow him the freedom to explore the world without fear. To me, Chloe's character was extremely realistic to a mother's feeling towards her children and keeping that in balance when you have to protect both children. With that said, it could also be difficult for some to read as it deals with what can happen when a child has an anaphalyactic reaction.
This book is not just a book about food allergies it is about so much more. It addresses the issues of Faith...forcing the reader to examine what the meaning of faith is to the characters in the book as well as challenge their own definition of faith as faith has many meanings and interpretations. It brought to light the theme of faith related to religion as well as medical science and healing.
It also addresses the issues of marriage and how it can change over the years for better and for worse. It also looks at how a husband and wife can handle a tragedy and what that can do to a marriage and a family.
I found that the author was very accurate in her descriptions and details of food allergies and reactions and medical issues overall. I am also a health professional so these issues were important to me to be accurate when you are dealing with a story even in a fictional way related to a very serious topic such as food allergies.
on November 24, 2008
This book starts out simple enough, but soon the characters come face to face with a horrifying tragedy that will change the course of their lives. The Tobias family appears to be the typically American family on the outside, but underneath all the show, Cal and Chloe are struggling with a stagnated marriage, 18 year old Marshall is off at college dealing with aspects of his past, and 12 year old Meghan is coping with life-threatening allergies.
As the book starts out, Marshall is coming home for spring break and he is bringing his new girlfriend - Ada - with him. Although Marshal has been searching for the "right" religion since the death of a friend years earlier, Ada is on the opposite end of the spectrum, almost to the point of being a zealot. Her family lives in a communion and they do not believe in medical treatments for illness or injuries.
On a simple day trip out into the Gulf of Mexico, Ada decides to "cure" Meghan of her allergies by exposing her to peanut butter mixed into a cookie. As you can imagine, the results were disastrous and devastating.
While Meghan is fighting for her life while in a coma, Cal is raging at his son and the girlfriend, while Chloe tries to hold the family together. When Marshal and Ada are arrested and charged with child abuse, they make a life altering decision. While out on bail, they flee to the home of Cal's mother - the mother Cal has been running from all his adult life.
This story is raw and heartwrenching and gives an accurate picture of a family dealing with crisis. You can feel the pain each family member is going through. It is a powerful book and one that will make you look at your life differently. I highly recommend A Matter of Faith, and I will be checking out Kiernan's first book, Catching Genius.
on August 18, 2008
At first glance, the Tobiases of the Gulf Coast of Florida could pass for the quintessential American family: breadwinning dad Cal, who runs tour and fishing boats; mom Chloe, who restores art when she has the time; college student son Marshall, seeking the meaning of life; and adolescent daughter Meghan.
But Chloe's (and thus the family's) life and attention revolve around Meghan, whose potentially deadly food allergies demand constant vigilance and dwarf other problems and concerns. Chloe lives in a daily state of dread, worried about what could happen to Meghan.
And then her worst fears come true.
For Marshall not only lusts after God, he also lusts after the beautiful and mysterious Ada Sparks, whom he brings home for a visit. As Ada is something of a religious zealot, Marshall can indulge both his lusts simultaneously and still feel good about it.
But like most lustful young men, he easily loses his backbone as he watches Ada, out to prove a point, feed an allergen to Meghan. God doesn't intervene: Meghan falls into a coma, Marshall and Ada go on the lam, and the resulting tension exposes all the cracks in Chloe and Cal's marriage.
Just another day at the Florida beach this is not.
It is, however, a great read, structured into the first-person story of Chloe, as she navigates through this family disaster, and the third-person story of Marshall, as he instigates and then attempts to right it. Orbiting around mother and son are Cal, who tries to create some semblance of a normal life even as Meghan lies unresponsive in a hospital bed; Meghan, who dominates the family even when comatose; and Grandma Tobias, the harsh religious fanatic whom Cal rejected as a mother long ago.
In MATTERS OF FAITH, Marshall instigates the action, but Chloe provides the insight. Marshall searches for a religious awakening, and much of the book revolves around the hope for Meghan's literal awakening. But Chloe is the one who wakes up: coping with crisis opens her eyes to the true nature of the people around her and the dynamics of her family.
She comes to realize that, although she is a talented and accomplished restorer of paintings, it is Cal's steady, uncomplaining daily work that keeps the family afloat and allows her to devote herself to Meghan and pursue her "career" as more of a hobby. Eventually Chloe begins to re-evaluate her mate, her marriage and herself; even seemingly unrelated occurrences, like a visit from the police, set her musing:
"I'd imagined that I was the warmer partner when I had been in college and Cal and I had met, the more intelligent, the more desirable friend. But when we'd moved here, it had been made clear that Cal was the preferred half of the couple, including, no especially with the women. I was not to be trusted, and it took a long time for me to realize that I was the one seen as cold, distant, self-absorbed."
Similarly, Chloe's vision of herself as fierce Mama Bear undergoes a transformation. She is fiercely protective not only of the fragile Meghan but also of the miscreant Marshall --- her husband's anger at Marshall and insistence he take responsibility for hurting Meghan drive Chloe deeper away from her husband, and, she knows, "when Marshall realized he was out of his depth, I would be the one he came to."
Yet Marshall first seeks out his crazy-like-a-fox grandmother --- admittedly out of necessity --- when he is on the run. And when he decides to come back and face his problems, it is Cal, not Chloe, who he dials.
Kristy Kiernan's book isn't perfect. There are some disturbing extraneous elements that go nowhere --- such as Chloe's interactions with the ER doctor who fingers Marshall to the police --- and a confusing foray into Ada's background and an FBI hunt for her. But these are minor problems in a thoughtful and lyrical account of one woman's coming to terms with her life, and herself. Kiernan doesn't flinch at the end; there is no fairy tale happily-ever-after.
Yet we are left with hope as the members of the Tobias family come out of a tragic situation with the compassion and desire to work their way back to each other.
Which, in the end, is what families, and faith, are about.
--- Reviewed by Pat Morris
on August 23, 2008
As I was reading MATTERS OF FAITH, I kept wanting to ask the author, "Where have you been all my life?" In truth, this is only Ms. Kiernan's second novel, and now I can't wait to read her first, CATCHING GENIUS.
MATTERS OF FAITH is not only beautifully written, but so much more: It is a heartbreaking look at what ties a family together as well as the very nature of faith. I've recommended it to my book group, as it will certainly spark a deep and wonderful discussion.