Saturday, July 19, 2008

Review: Matters of Faith

Summary: At age twelve, Marshall Tobias saw his best friend killed by a train. It was then that he began his search for faith—delving into one tradition, then discarding it for another. His parents, however, have little time for spiritual contemplation. Their focus has been on his little sister Megan, who suffers from severe food allergies.

Now Marshall is home from college with his first real girlfriend, but there is more to Ada than meets the eye—including her beliefs about the evils of medical intervention. What follows is a crisis that tests not only faith, but the limits of family, forgiveness, and our need to believe. -- Berkley

When I found out that MATTERS OF FAITH by Kristy Kiernan is a book about a family who has to deal with a child who has life-threatening food allergies, I knew I had to read it. Like the family in the book, we have a young son (almost 4 years old) who has severe food allergies. I am not familiar with another fiction book that discusses the food allergy issue, so I was particularly interested in this story. While I knew I wanted to read MATTERS OF FAITH, I was pretty sure that it would not be easy for me.

That proved to be a major understatement. I had no idea how much this story would affect me. Trust me -- my son's food allergies are a constant concern for me. If I allow myself to think about what could happen if he even gets near certain foods, I would drive myself crazy. I am extremely careful about prevention, but I do not focus on the negative.

MATTERS OF FAITH brought the seriousness of the situation a little too close to home for me. When Ms. Kiernan was describing the scene where the parents arrive to see their young daughter in anaphylactic shock after eating a bite of a peanut butter cookie, I found myself shaking and I had tears in my eyes. This scene is a perfect description of my worst nightmare -- my child eating something he's allergic to when I'm not there to protect him.

Having said that, you might think that I didn't enjoy this book; however, that couldn't be further from the truth -- I loved this book! While I appreciated that the author tackled this condition that affects so many families, it was only part of this wonderful book. There was so much more to this story than a child's food allergies. To me, this book is really about family dynamics and how a family copes with many difficulties.

This the first book that I've read by Kristy Kiernan, but it definitely won't be the last. (CATCHING GENIUS is already in my TBR pile!) The book held my interest throughout, and I thought it flowed very nicely. What I really appreciated was how Ms. Kiernan told this story -- she alternated between 1st person narrative of Chloe, the mother; and 3rd person narrative of Marshall, the son. I thought this narrative style was very unique and very effective for telling this story. I was glad that I could see into Chloe's innermost thoughts, and I felt that I could really understand her and relate to her. I also liked that I could get Marshall's opinion, but from a more distant view.

As a mother and a wife, I really appreciated MATTERS OF FAITH. I was very surprised to learn that Ms. Kiernan is not a mother because I feel that she nailed a mother's feelings towards her children. I was deeply touched by Chloe's reactions to her family and the tragedies surrounding it. On one hand, you want to be angry at your child for hurting your other child; and on the other, you have this overwhelming love for him and a strong need to protect him. I also related to the feelings Chloe had about wanting your child to become his own person, and yet how difficult it is to let him be on his own. Ms. Kiernan made this point in two ways -- the more normal way that a parent has to allow a child to explore his interests (i.e. Marshall and his religion curiosity) while also watching him head off to college; and also in the more unique way that Chloe had to let Meghan out of her sight on a daily basis despite her life-threatening food allergies.

MATTERS OF FAITH will be available on August 5, 2008; and I'm happy to report that it has been selected as an IndieBound Notable Pick for September. IndieBound is a part of the American Booksellers Association, which is the national organization for independent bookstores. Every month they produce a list of the titles they feel deserve special attention from their booksellers, and MATTERS OF FAITH was chosen from all the great books out there! Congratulations go out to Ms. Kiernan for this wonderful honor!

I strongly recommend considering this book for your next book club pick. I know you are probably thinking I'm biased since this book deals with a subject matter that is very near and dear to my heart, but it really does have a lot of terrific issues to discuss. I think you could definitely spend an evening just looking at the parent/child relationships as well as the themes of religion, guilt and ultimately forgiveness. I'd also be very interested in discussing the dynamics of Chloe's and Cal's marriage. There's just so much to talk about!

It seems like more and more children are being diagnosed with severe food allergies. In fact, there is probably at least one kid in your children's' classes whose life is affected by food allergies. If you are interested in learning more about food allergies, there are so many wonderful resources out there. Two websites that I visit are: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Kids with Food Allergies. There is so much information on both of these sights, and you can even sign up to receive regular newsletters. Even if you aren't directly affected by food allergies, I am pretty confident that you will be in contact with someone who is -- it really is a life and death situation for so many families. I know that I appreciate how supportive my family and friends have been in learning about with my son's food allergies.

Also reviewed at:
Age 30 - A Year in Books
Redlady's Reading Room


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the terrific review, Julie. Of course it means even more knowing that you're dealing with one of the tough issues in the book. My best to you and your son, and all the supportive friends and family around you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your son's allergies, that's a tough thing to deal with. I have a nephew with allergies to peanuts. This book sounds fantastic though and I hadn't heard of it yet. I will have to add it to my reading list!

Darlene said...

Great review Julie. This is definitely a book I'll look into reading. I'm sorry to hear of your son's food allergies. I can relate-I have a fatal allergy to all nuts and have since a child. I can understand how scary it is for you and how hard it is to protect them from something that is everywhere. Best of luck to all you all-I'm glad you have such a good support system.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a powerful book. I'm definitely going to check this one out in August.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Great review! I forgot (or maybe didn't know?) that your son has allergies as well. I so know what that is like! I'm glad that you read this one and that you enjoyed it ... I've been talking about to lots of people since I read it last month.

Cheryl said...

Adding this book as one to read

Bonnie said...

This is a great heartfelt review and I truly appreciated it! I am a mom of a child with severe food allergies as well including peanuts/tree nuts. This book sounds like a wonderful way to get across the issues related to food allergies in a positive way. I am looking forward to reading it!!
I'm so glad that you talked about resources as well in your review.
I have found both sources you recommended very helpful. Also, for peanut allergies there is a website that has a great discussion board to talk to other parents and get information. This was a great resource to me when finding information for product information, school education and issues.

Michele said...

Thanks for a great review! I've added the request for my library.

Anna said...

What a great review! I've added this book to my TBR list.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Bonnie said...

I posted to you last month after reading your wonderful review here. I have since read this fabulous book and my review is posted on my blog here....