Two years ago, I was honored when Arabella Carter-Johnson wrote a guest post for us, introducing us to her very special autistic daughter Iris and her Maine Coon cat Thula, who was instrumental in helping Iris open up and communicate in ways that she hadn’t done before. Since then, the pair have captured the world’s heart through their Facebook page and other media outlets.
In Iris Grace: The Story of a Little Girl Whose Talent Unlocked Her Silent World, Iris’ mother chronicles the remarkable journey of helping her severely autistic daughter. For the first few years of Iris’ life, she barely communicated at all and hardly even looked at her mother. Eventually, she discovered that Iris had an extraordinary talent: she began to paint, and art functioned as an outlet to express her spirit.
But it wasn’t until the family decided to get Thula, a Maine Coon kitten, that Iris started to blossom. The intuitive kitten was able to reach Iris in ways even her mother hadn’t been able to. Iris became more confident and interacted more with the world around her.
Carter-Johnson invites the reader into her home. Within the first few pages, I found myself drawn into the family’s world: their beautiful garden, Iris’ play room, and the area surrounding their home. But more importantly, Carter-Johnson shares intimate details of the family’s life, and she lays bare her heart. The first half of the book is not an easy read. I found it viscerally painful to follow Carter-Johnson’s struggles with her unresponsive daughter. I admired her unrelenting drive to find new ways to reach her little girl, but even more so, I was deeply moved by the sheer force of her unconditional love for Iris.
When Thula joins the family, everything changes. Iris starts to communicate, first with Thula, and then with her parents, and the larger world around her. The bond between Thula and Iris is beyond remarkable – if ever there was a soul mate relationship, this is surely it.
Beautifully illustrated and written, with stunning photographs by Carter-Johnson, this book profoundly touched my heart. I did not expect this to be the kind of book I couldn’t put down, but I found myself turning the pages long into the night. This book is not only a testament to the healing power of cats, but also a moving story of the unconditional love of a mother for her extraordinary daughter, and of how, as it states on Iris Grace’s website, “thousands of candles can be lit by a single candle.”
The book trailer provides a wonderful glimpse into the world of Iris and Thula:
Interior images ©Arabella Carter-Johnson, used with permission
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. All reviews on this site will always reflect my honest and unbiased opinion.