Book Review for “The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt” by Andrea Bobotis.
Judith Kratt has been living in her family home in the small town of Bound South Carolina all her life, and she’s taken care of all that it contains – every piece of furniture, both valuable and worthless. Now, a full 60 years since Judith’s brother Quincy was killed in 1929, two things happen. First, Judith decides to write down an inventory of all the house contains. Then, Judith’s younger sister Rosemarie sends word that she is coming home. Rosemarie left right after Quincy’s death, and the only communication she’s had with her sister has been the occasional postcard, addressed but with no messages on them. These postcards were actually addressed to Olva, the girl who was adopted by Judith’s Aunt Dee (her mother’s maiden sister) when left as a baby on the Kratt’s doorstep, before Judith was born. Rosemarie’s return disrupts the old dust from the lies and the secrets Judith and Olva have been ignoring all this time.
First and foremost, oh… my… goodness! Bobotis is an absolutely amazing writer! The language here is so stunning, that I’m having a hard time describing it to you all. Bobotis’ voice is very unique, which is something that is probably the hardest thing to achieve for any writer. That this is a debut novel makes this all the more impressive (but I believe she’s been honing her craft with short stories and the like, with some very good success). What fascinated me the most is how Bobotis’ prose seems to just flow, so very naturally and smoothly, while at the same time she employs metaphors and assigns attributes to things that we’d never think of under normal circumstances. Emotions get things like colors and textures, while inanimate objects take on anthropomorphic elements, bringing them to life. However, this isn’t poetry, although some phrases are inarguably poetic, since these come as little sparkles, splashed into the most ordinary of sentences. If this doesn’t make sense, I’m really sorry, but you’ve got to believe me that Bobotis’ talent is something very special indeed, and you’ll just have to read it yourself to get my meaning.
Of course, all this could be just well and good on its own, but Bobotis combines all this with a family saga and the search for the truth in these peoples’ lives that is adroitly plotted and nimbly paced to achieve maximum enticement to read on and on. We get every element needed such as sex (although it is implied more than described, thank you very much), intrigue, conspiracy, deception, cruelty, abuse, and even a bit of extortion and blackmail, not to mention murder and adultery. But there’s also compassion, generosity, and kindness and a group of people who refuse to adhere to the norms of racism that were so prevalent at the time (which unfortunately, continue to some extent even today). As complex as this may sound, Bobotis serves us this menu one course at a time, through Judith’s eyes, while remaining true to her theme of Judith’s inventory by occasionally giving us a list of the items in the Kratt home that Judith notes. What I found even more clever was that the list changes and increases as it includes things that she features in each of the chapters, all of which go towards slowly unveiling all of the Kratt family secrets. Mind you, we can figure out a few of these mysteries before some of the characters, but that doesn’t lessen any of the suspense here.
Finally, Bobotis also knows just how to develop her characters so that we react with just the right amounts of empathy and/or disgust at just the right intervals. Judith’s craggy demeanor and Olva’s overly submissive overtures evolve throughout the story in such subtle and realistic ways that we hardly notice the undertones of a coming of age subplot, but it’s there all the same. Plus, all the quirky, and sometimes unsavory minor characters all play their parts to push the story along, all the way through to the gentle ending, that leaves just enough to the imagination to be satisfying while not wanting to let any of them go. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting a sequel, but I can promise you that I’d be first in line to grab a copy if Bobotis decides to write one.
I think I’ve been effusive enough about this novel, so I’ll stop here. (But just to be certain… I wanted to rush through it, but I also wanted to savor each and every word, it was just that wonderful.) Of course, I’m positive that my readers can already figure out that I’m giving this a resounding full five out of five stars. This is very unusual for me, and it reminds me how I gave equally as much high praise and marks to Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove,” which I also had the privilege to read prior to its publication. I knew then that he’d become a sensation, and if Bobotis can sustain this level of creativity in her next works, I believe she’s going to be on a very similar path towards success (and I hope to come along for the ride)! Brava, Andrea, BRAVA!
Sourcebooks Landmark will release “The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt” by Andrea Bobotis on July 9, 2019. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), or Thriftbooks.com, as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.