Book Review: The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop

THE LAST LETTER

By:  Kathleen Shoop

Published:  April 27, 2011

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Katherine wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t found the letter…

Katherine Arthur’s mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was young, the Arthur family had been affluent city dwellers until shame sent them running for the prairie, into the unknown. Taking her family, including young Katherine, to live off the land was the last thing Jeanie Arthur had wanted, but she would do her best to make a go of it. For Jeanie’s husband Frank it had been a world of opportunity. Dreaming, lazy Frank. But, it was a society of uncertainty—a domain of natural disasters, temptation, hatred, even death. 



Ten-year-old Katherine had loved her mother fiercely, put her trust in her completely, but when there was no other choice, and Jeanie 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 homestead, Katherine has found the truth – she has discovered the last letter. After years of anger, can Katherine find it in her heart to understand why her mother made the decisions that changed them all? Can she forgive and finally begin to heal before it’s too late?




I purchased this on my Kindle for $.99 and even at the current price on Amazon of $2.99, I encourage you to get it as well.  If you are a lover of historical fiction (late 1800’s) and family drama, this is a book for you.  

I was a bit confused as I began the story because it jumps back and forth from Katherine’s life as a child on the Dakota Praire with her mother Jeanie as the main character to other chapters with Katherine as an adult in Des Moines.  This is one instance where it would have been helpful to have the hard copy so it was easier to look back and remind myself of characters and their role in the story.  But, as I read on, it became easier.

It is hard to believe all the bad things that can happen in one family and you almost want to say, geesh, can’t anything go right for them, but it is part of the way of life on the Prairie during that time.  Nothing was taken for granted and life in a sod dugout was NOT fancy or easy.  I cringed many times reading about their use of chamber pots, dirt and snakes falling from the “ceiling” and burning buffalo chips for warmth.  But, the research Shoop did to make this story real must be praised.  When I found out at the end of the story, part of her story was based on the book THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD by David Laskin I was even more intrigued.  That has been sitting on my self for a couple years and it just got bumped up on my to-read list.

You never had to try to imagine characters or what items or places looked like because the author gave such vivid descriptions of everything down to the clodhoppers, to the beautiful Lutie, to the flowers on the prairie, to the storms that rolled in.  I could see it all play out in my mind.

With this story being the second I had read with a “loser” for a husband, it really got my blood boiling.  I loved the lectures Jeanie both gave and wanted to give to her husband Frank but she got it right on when she said to him, “You are a man who acts as a ten-year-old.”  I cheered out loud for Jeanie and cried for her at many other points in the story.  Jeanie went from living a plush, fancy life to a sad, hopeless life in a sod dugout with a husband who disappointed her day in and day out.  I may not have agreed with all of Jeanie’s choices in the story, but I ended the book with a great respect for her and for her now grown daughter, Katherine.  The book reminded me of the great importance of forgiveness and lifting that burden and anger from your soul.  

This book is worth a read and Shoop’s newest novel AFTER THE FOG sounds intriguing as well.   Check out Kathleen Shoop on her website, HERE.

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