In “The Enigma of Iris Murphy,” author Maureen Millea Smith, a Hennepin County librarian and creative writing teacher, delves into the life of Iris Murphy, an elderly public defender in Omaha County.
By the second chapter, readers discover Iris’s discomfort with the prison system, despite her professional ties to it.
Smith’s motivation for creating this character can be traced back to her cousin, a trial attorney. On the inside book jacket, she reveals, “I look at the world novelistically … it is the accretion of details that helps me to understand characters and to make them real …” This detail-driven perspective becomes evident through her intimate portrayal of Iris.
One of the book’s highlights is the introduction of Sgt. Clayton Santos-Anderson, a native Minnesotan. Through mentions of familiar locales like St. Paul and Mendota Heights, Smith weaves a tapestry of connections, making the narrative resonate especially for readers from Minnesota. However, its central themes on social justice issues make it universally relevant, underlining the fact that while the story is set in Nebraska, it could echo the sentiments of any prison in the United States.
But perhaps the most delightful element of the book is its ensemble of characters. They are brilliantly fleshed out, and their lives interlace with Iris’s, offering readers a captivating dance of relationships and events.
Winner of the Tartt First Fiction Award, “The Enigma of Iris Murphy” isn’t just a story; it’s a testament to the change-makers in our communities, exemplified by the indomitable Iris Murphy.
“The Enigma of Iris Murphy” was published by the Livingston Press of the University of West Alabama in 2016. It is 194 pages.
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of Rachel’s Reviews, where Rachel Engstrom, a contributor to Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN), reviews various aspects of Eden Prairie and beyond. Have ideas for reviews? Reach out to Rachel Engstrom at Rachel.Engstrom@eplocalnews.org.
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