Book Reviews

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

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea BobotisThe Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
Published on July 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 320
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Some bury their secrets close to home. Others scatter them to the wind and hope they land somewhere far away.

Judith Kratt inherited all the Kratt family had to offer—the pie safe, the copper clock, the murder no one talks about. She knows it's high time to make an inventory of her household and its valuables, but she finds that cataloging the family belongings—as well as their misfortunes—won't contain her family's secrets, not when her wayward sister suddenly returns, determined to expose skeletons the Kratts had hoped to take to their graves.

Interweaving the present with chilling flashbacks from one fateful evening in 1929, Judith pieces together the influence of her family on their small South Carolina cotton town, learning that the devastating effects of dark family secrets can last a lifetime and beyond.

Told against the backdrop of customary Southern decorum, The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is the sprawling saga of the Kratt family.

The central narrator, Judith, is unreliable, not always likable. She cares more about the legacy of her family and the value of her heirlooms than she does about her surroundings. Borne into the prosperous Kratt family, Judith grew up under the rigid thumb of the oppressive and injurious Daddy Kratt.

Cotton and blackmail kept the Kratts in business for years until a tragic incident cast a permanent shadow over them. Quincy, Judith’s brother, was murdered.

Rosemarie, Judith’s sister, has always believed Judith was responsible for Quincy’s death. Because of this, she fled the suffocating small-town of Bound, never to darken Judith’s doorstep again.

Since then, Judith hasn’t left her home. She’s been in a shut-in for 65 years with only Olva, a family friend with secrets of her own, to keep her company.

The story is told with two alternating narratives, one from when Judith was only 15 and one in present-day Bound where Judith is 75. The segments of the novel set in the past follow the events leading up to Quincy’s death.

Andrea Bobotis is a competent writer. The world of Bound is fleshed out through lustrous descriptive passages. You can feel the swelter of Southern heat, feel the blanket of dust coating the untouched miscellaneous objects in the old Kraft house and see the splinters of the sun’s rays filtering through the windows.

This story less about the mystery and more about establishing the arcs of its central characters. It also focuses heavily on how the past can inform the present.

Because The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is more intrinsically motivated, the ending feels somewhat anticlimactic. Everything de-escalates quickly, and the core conflicts in the book wrap up a little too neat.

But that doesn’t make this novel any less of a compelling read. Despite feeling underwhelmed by the final chapters, I felt wholly gratified by the understanding of Judith’s inventory. What makes her family history worth preserving?

One has to learn how to hang on, and also when to let go.

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About Andrea Bobotis

A native of South Carolina, Andrea holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia. She lives with her family in Denver, Colorado, where she teaches creative writing to youth at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She also teaches yoga and is a national parks geek.