Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt - by Andrea Bobotis: Book Review

Title: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt
Author: Andrea Bobotis
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: July 9th 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle

What power things had over me! 

As I look back, I wonder what made our house a home for me. Was it my family? Or was it the things in their proper place?

Judith Kratt, the oldest child of the Kratt family which used to be the richest and most feared family in Bound, South Carolina in the 1920s, decides to do an inventory of all the things her family has gathered over the years. Her love for them is deeply ingrained. Oh, the things we learn due to this inventory!

This is a slow burn story, but it consumes you and you keep kindling the flame because you are now part of the Kratts and part of Bound, South Carolina.

Compiling an inventory of a house, like Miss Judith Kratt intends to do, takes time - and so does telling the story of a family through the objects. You need to be in a certain mind frame, so to say, to read this novel. Yes, there is racism, but keep in mind it's the years 1929 and 1989. Yes, there are few, if any, likeable characters, but this makes them all the more intriguing. Yes, it may seem to drag, but bit by bit the tapestry of a whole family and town is revealed through the power of objects. It's the typical Southern family story: the father acting like the leader who instills fear in all, the meek mother who mostly keeps to herself, but still has a confidante, and the children who seem to grow without any of the parents' attention.

I enjoyed this novel very much. Actually, I find it hard to come up with something I didn't like about it. Maybe I could say that it did seem to have a slow pace, and the "mystery" surrounding some characters was too thin, therefore Rosemarie's shock, Miss Judith's youngest sister, is hardly believable. By the half point, through all the flashbacks and the shared memories, the reader can easily see where the story is going and figure out the secret.

The novel has 14 chapters that tell the story of the Kratt family, the richest and most important family in Bound, a small town in South Carolina. The narrative line alternates between 1929 and 1989. The memories, the stories, and the history of the objects that come into focus reveal the underlying parts of each family member. I have realised this is a favourite way for me to discover the story of a person, family or town. It's like an onion: you find more and more stories. At times, apparently without realising it, the narrator gives pieces of information and gradually you piece them all together so that in the end you have the whole Kratt puzzle figured out. It's helpful that although the story alternates past-present day, it keeps an approximate chronological timeline in revealing the family history.

As far as the characters go, there isn't anyone I liked. They just are, but this makes them human and you accept them for who they are. Miss Judith, who we learn has never left her house in the last sixty years, has all the traits to make her irritating, but you can hardly keep anything against her. Rosemarie tried to cope with what she thought she understood as she saw fit. Olva was caught between two worlds and two families, not fully knowing on whose side she ought to stand.

As for the writing, it's poetic at times, simplistic other times. There were some sentences lacking a verb, and although I think I understand the aesthetic purpose, it's bothersome when reading. In this sense, it would have flowed better if there were some semicolons or an alternative writing structure or style.

All in all, I had a good time reading this novel. It's for those who like stories set in the South, especially since it reminds so well of the American Southern classics and the time period usually tackled in those novels. Not to mention, it's perfect for a slow afternoon when the heat is almost unbearable and you lay in the shadow drinking iced tea.

3 1/2 *
I received a free e-book copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.


Characters List (contains spoilers!):
Bound, South Carolina
Daddy Brayburn Kratt - richest man in town, owns a department store and cotton gins
Mama Rosemarie Kratt - Daddy's wife. quiet person. died of a hear attack. lived with
Judith Kratt - the oldest child. takes the blame for Olva.
Quincy Kratt - the boy. killed by Olva on December 20th 1929.
Rosemarie Kratt - the youngest child. very beautiful. thinks Judith killed Quincy because she saw her with the gun after she took it from Olva. left Bound immediately after. did not return for 60 years. Helped Olva learn about her father's family. left as soon as she learned the truth.
Aunt Dee - unmarried, Mama's sister. She knows about Mama and Charlie. died of a heart attck
Charlie - a handyman. works at the store
Charlie + Mama = Olva, a child born a year before Judith
Shep Bramlett - Daddy Kratt's business partern. will eventually buy Daddy out and will lead to Daddy's downfall. Shep sexually attacked Rosemarie when she was 13 years old.
Byrd Parker - Daddy Kratt's business rival
Byrd's wife committed suicide. She had had an affair with a Negro man and she was pregnant.
Mr. and Mrs. Greenley - the butcher and his wife
Mr. Burn - the milliner
Ima - the Kratt's cook
Marcus - paperman. related to Olva, but we only learn this later on
Amaryllis - Marcus' daughter
Dovey Aikens - girl Quincy loved. they two had a child, but we learn nothing about it
the five Sullivan daughters - poor. had many children
Jolly and Vi - Shep's daughters
Rick - Jolly's son. he owns a store, a small and unprofitable version of the store his grandfather bought from Daddy Kratt. Shep had no business sense and the store soon lost its glory.

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