Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop

The Last Letter

For any daughter who thinks she knows her mother’s story… 
 Katherine Arthur’s mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was ten, she had loved her mother fiercely, put her trust in her completely, but when her mother resorted to extreme measures on the prairie to save her family, she tore Katherine’s world apart. Now, seventeen years later, and far from the prairie, Katherine has found the truth – she has discovered the last letter.

My Thoughts: 

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop is a fascinating novel inspired by actual letters written by the authors great-great grandmother Jeanie and her great-great grandfather Frank. She used their names as the parents in this fictional novel about the well-to-do Arthur family who moves to the prairie of the Dakota Territory in 1887 due to financial turmoil and disgrace. The novel alternates between 1887 and 1888 from Jeanie, the mother's perspective and 1905 from the voice of Katherine, Jeanie's now adult daughter who has a family of her own. Katherine has never forgiven her mother for choices that she made and her perceptions of what happened during the time on the prairie and when they left. Jeanie is dying and is taking care of her adult daughter Yale and Katherine takes them in with hesitation and pressure from her husband. Katherine recalls the letters that her mother read while on the prairie, love letters from the courtship between her parents and other letters. Katherine believes that their marital troubles were all her mother's fault and is part of her reasons for not forgiving her now as an adult. As she takes care of her mother and sister, she searches for those letters and finds one last letter that explains things and allows Katherine to put the pieces of the puzzle together. 

As a reader, you are pulled into the reality of the prairie life as the Arthur's are unprepared to move from a wealthy civilized home to a crude, primitive and unfamiliar terrain and lifestyle living off the land. There is a parallel to the plot that fits what is known historically as the Children's Blizzard of 1888. I found myself relishing details of life on the prairie in fascination and awe, and in some moments I found the brutal reality to be heartbreaking. The historical storytelling held my interest throughout the book. I was moved by the gut-wrenching decisions the characters had to make. The secrecy of the mother-daughter relationship was one that unraveled to tell the truth of why mother's may hold their secrets in their hearts and how hard it is to reveal those to the ones they love, even their own children. The art of letter writing and the importance it makes in relationships shone throughout this novel. Letters are powerful tools to preserve our family histories and can share a past that we may not have known existed. 

I highly recommend The Last Letter written by Kathleen Shoop for summer reading. I was so impressed that this is her debut novel that was self published. I have read many self published novels and they did not have the polish, editing and strength that The Last Letter has. Ms. Shoop appears to have put her heart and soul into the writing of The Last Letter as it was part of her own family history with the inspiration of the letters her great-great grandmother left behind. You can read more about Kathleen Shoop and the inspiration behind writing The Last Letter on her website, HERE.  

Thanks to BookSparksPR for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review. 

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome review of this one Bonnie! I loved it too and couldn't tear myself away from the pages!!


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