By Deborah Sweaney

The Girl behind the Iris

Carrie Swartz sketched the iris on the cover before she was married to Finn McCluey in 1911. Her artwork adorns this sweeping family saga.

In this third and final book in Deborah Sweaney’s Missouri Trilogy, the author follows four generations of women in her family. She re-creates their day-to-day worlds as they are impacted by the events of their times.

It is Anna Swartz, Carrie’s mother, who first heads westward after the Civil War into the yet untamed American heartland. Her daughter, Carrie, names her middle daughter Iris after the beautiful flower she once sketched. Iris, the author’s mother, grows up in poverty but works to put her young husband through medical school and helps him build a successful practice, only to be left a widow with four small children. Deborah, one of the four, struggles with such a profound loss early in life but learns to navigate in her world.

Whether it was through passed-down recipes or ways of dealing with life’s tragedies, the four generations of women learned from those who came before them. Often they turned to their gardens where they found peace and joy in seeing a small seed become a healthy plant. All learned the lesson that gardening, like life, is not at all passive. It requires hard work and even at that leaves the gardener to the fate of forces outside her own control.

Deborah’s two previous books in her Missouri Trilogy are Unpacking Memories and Up in the Air.


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