Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop

Genre: Historical Fiction
Copryright: 2011
Pages: 367
Book Source: ARC courtesy of Jessica @ Booksparks PR

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

Katherine Arthur’s dying mother arrives on her doorstep, 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, 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?

The Last Letter is a riveting, beautifully written debut novel inspired by letters from the author's great-great grandmother. I literally couldn't put  it down but ultimately it's not a feel good story, it's harsh and heart-breaking but it evoked strong emotions and that's a great read in my humble opinion.

Shoop spares no detail depicting the bitter realities of prairie life, the unforgiving landscape and weather, the relentless struggle, the arduous challenges with hygiene and heating, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires, and the Children’s Blizzard of 1888. Tragedy and heartache become second nature for many of the settlers and I found myself crying at the unbearable sadness of it all.

I admired the indomitable spirit of Jeanie Arthur and others in their co-operative but wanted to jump through the pages of the book and give her husband, Frank a swift kick to his nether region. Jeanie's fierce love for her children & protective instincts were a stark contrast to Frank's selfish indifference. Protecting her husband's worthless character and holding secrets close inspires intense bitterness in Jeanie's children, particularly Katherine but reading this vivid account, becoming invested in the lives of the characters, the author allows us to "walk a mile in their shoes" and look at their decisions and motivations with empathy.

Harrowing reading but oh so worth it.

Buy this book!! For .99 cents on Amazon I'd just about guarantee you won't regret it.

About the Author:
Kathleen Shoop is a Language Arts Coach with a PhD in Reading Education. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two children. Kathleen has published stories in four Chicken Soup for the Soul books, writes regularly in Pittsburgh Magazine and has contributed articles to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The Last Letter is her debut novel.

Visit Kathleen Shoop's website to find out more about this author and her work.


  1. Another very good one. Thanks for the review.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic read! Will make sure i read this one!

  3. I think I'm the only person who read/reviewed this and didn't like it! I'm always in the minority. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  4. Hi Teddy! I read The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and just loved it. I didn't like The Soldier's Wife nearly as much. There was no humor or quirkiness, and it felt a little disjointed to me. I liked it, but not as much.

  5. Great review Teddy! This is the sort of book I don't read too much of and I don't know why becuase I always end up enjoying them. Even if the stories are sad and harrowing. Makes us count our blessings I guess.

  6. I'm doing that Snoopy Happy Dance that you loved this one as much as I did...however, your review was so much better than mine!!! I loved how you compared the Jeanie and Frank..he was quite a twit wasn't he?? And for .99 cents this book rocks!!!

  7. Hi Sheree! Thank you so very much for the kind review. I can't express how it feels when readers connect with the book and understand that the sadness in it needs to be there!

    Thanks also to everyone here who is interested in reading The Last Letter!

    And thanks again to Staci for your thoughts...what a thrill to get a good review, your work is awesome.

    And Holly, I appreciate your thoughts so much as well. I know every book does not suit every reader! I seem to be getting "I love it!" and "I hate it!" least that might mean it's a strong book--evoking strong responses good or bad. I hope the next one works for you!

    Thanks again for the review, Sheree!

  8. This book sounds fantastic with many layers to sort through. I am putting it on my list right now.

  9. Looking forward to reading this.

  10. Having read the give away post and now this review I would like to read this, hopefully soon if I happen to win :)

  11. Wow, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I think I would really love it.

  12. This looks great. I would love to write a book someday based loosely on the lives of my ancestors.


Thanks for taking the time to leave some comment love, I'm a 'comment back' kinda girl. Don't forget to check the 'Notify me' box