Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Last Letter By Kathleen Shoop

This is a story about a mother and daughter’s relationship at the cross roads. Jeanie Arthur is dying of cancer and she wants her daughter’s forgiveness, not as much for herself but for her daughter, Katherine. Her daughter doesn't even want her dying mother in her home, let alone ready to forgive her. The Last Letter centers on Jeanie’s pioneer life and what brought about her daughter’s bitterness towards her. As the reader we are allowed to see (read) the whole story as it unfolds to understand a mother's plight. 

Jeanie finds herself and her family living in the Dakota Territory, after having lived the good life in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father and husband Frank and brought disgrace to their family and had lost the family fortune. She and Frank are running headlong into a new life…a life Frank has dreamt about. Jeanie having lived her entire life privilege is far from pleased about this new life. Between her discontentment, Frank’s laziness and facing the elements, life is more difficult than any of them could have imagined. 

I had anticipated The Last Letter would mostly be written in the form of letters, but instead numerous letters were discussed during the book and in the end Katherine finds the last letter she’d not read before and finally is able to make sense of the things she didn’t understand as a child. I had a hard time really getting into the beginning of the book. It’s very well written, but it took some time before the story really gets moving. On the flip side, after completing the book I gained a stronger appreciation for the beginning of the book and Jeanie’s dilemma and choices at the end of the book. I would add the last 100-150 pages moved very quickly where I didn’t want to stop reading. There were so many shocking discoveries at the end of the book, all twists and turns were very impressive.

I was disappointed with how little information we are given during Katherine’s adolescent years, it just felt as if the story ended too swiftly. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found myself reflecting how lucky we are as women it today’s world. For so many years women had little to no rights and I think we sometimes take for granted.  I would recommend this book. 

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