Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

If I could speak now to my fifteen-year-old self, I might tell her to be more forgiving of her parents.  Maybe they were doing the best they could.  It's possible.  If adulthood has taught me anything, it's that even grown-ups are fallible.  We're not a whole lot smarter than we were when we were fifteen.  We still feel the same stir of emotions, the same awkward human needs and doubts we felt when we were teenagers.  Only the shell grows thicker; the inside, the more tender parts, remains surprisingly unchanged.  Often -- and this is a secret that not many parents will tell their children -- often, we don't know what the hell we're doing.  And so we yell, we shout, we slap our children.

We still make mistakes, daughter.  Oh yes, all the time.  (from Letter to My Daughter, page 71 in the ARC)

Letter to My Daughter is George Bishop's debut novel, told in the form of a letter written by the worried mother of a 15-year-old girl who took off in her parents' car after an argument.  Laura regrets the fight that led to her slapping Liz, and while she stands by her decision not to allow her daughter to celebrate spring break in Florida, she also remembers what it's like to be a teenager.

Laura spends the time during Liz's absence writing her a long letter, telling the story of her youth in the hopes of showing Liz that she understands and is sorry for the mistakes she's made as a parent.  Laura's story opens in 1969 in farm country in Zachary, La., where she suffers under the rule of self-righteous parents.  They don't approve of her relationship with Tim, whose family is Cajun and of low social status, and they ultimately try to keep them apart by sending Laura to a Catholic boarding school in Baton Rouge.  The two eventually are separated when Tim enlists in the Army and is shipped off to Vietnam, but their relationship continues through letters.  While their relationship blossoms, then stagnates as Tim's letters become more grim and filled with horrible images of war, Laura is alone in a school where she feels like an outcast and struggles to find herself.

One might think that a book written in the form of a single letter might ramble or eventually lose steam, but it doesn't.  Laura is very eloquent and calm, despite the fact that she is worried about Liz and dredging up the hurts of the past at the same time.  The epistolary format means readers don't get to hear Liz's side of the story or get to know her outside of the few tidbits revealed by Laura in the letter, but the story really is about Laura using the lessons of her past to put the present into perspective and take steps to build a stronger relationship with her daughter down the road.

Letter to My Daughter is a slim novel that easily could be read in one sitting.  I fell in love with the book right away, and it was hard to pull myself away from it to go to work or do the nightly household chores.  It's hard to believe that it's Bishop's first novel; beautifully written, it perfectly captures the ups and downs of the mother-daughter relationship.  While my daughter is much younger than Liz, I could relate to Laura's desire to not make the mistakes her parents made, then realizing that it's impossible to be a perfect parent.  Bishop writes about first love with tenderness, and he does a good job showing how difficult war can be both for soldiers and the ones they leave behind.  It's one of those books that ends right where it should, but because I was enjoying it so much, I didn't want it to end.

Random House is offering a copy of Letter to My Daughter to one lucky reader.  Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address.  Because the publisher is handling the shipping, the giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only and will end Wednesday, May 19, at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of the Letter to My Daughter tour.  To check out the rest of the tour dates, click here.

Letter to My Daughter is the 5th book I've read for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Letter to My Daughter from Random House for review purposes.  I am an Amazon affiliate.





© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.

37 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have not only heard this is a one-sitting book, but that you need a box of tissues to get through it! I must throw my name in for this one...the Vietnam War Challenge is calling me!

Diane said...

i liked this one as well Anna; great review.

Serena said...

no need to enter me, but I really loved this book!

Serena said...

posted the giveaway in my sidebar for you!

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book, too. It's just full of emotion. No need to enter me.

Linda said...

I loved the epistolary format of The Guernsey Literary....Society, and I'd love to give this book a try. It sounds great.
lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

thanks for the giveaway.

Sandra K321 said...

I was surprised when I first realized that this was written by a male. It will be interesting to see how he does.
seknobloch(at)gmail(dot)com

Jonita said...

I have been hearing great things about this book for a while now and would love the chance to read it for myself. Thanks for the contest!

jonitathebookchick(at)gmail(dot)com

Kristen said...

This sounds so much better than I initially thought. Thanks for the review.

Suko said...

I didn't want this book to end, either!

Wonderful review, Anna! I also read and reviewed this book recently so don't enter me in the giveaway.

Iliana said...

What an interesting way to set up the novel. I like epistolary novels but haven't read one where it's just one long letter. Really enjoyed the review!

Staci said...

I have this one to read and it sounds great!!!

Alyce said...

How neat that it's such a good book, and from a male author too! I was curious how well the mother/daughter issues would be articulated.

I'd love to be entered.

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

i would LOVE to read this book...thanks for the opportunity :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, babe. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

jen said...

Sounds like a really great book!
Please enter me into the giveaway. Thanks!

Bookfool said...

Well, since you fell in love with it I will throw my name in the hat. bookfoolery at gmail dot com is where I hang out.

JHS. said...

"If I could speak now to my fifteen-year-old self, . . ." I'd have a lot to say! If only it were possible!

JHS
Colloquium

admin at jhsiess dot com

lilly said...

Sounds like an awesome book. I'd love to win it.

lillyswistek at gmail dot com

Margie said...

I've heard good things about this book. Count me in please.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Mystica said...

Thanks for the review. Please count me in.

LisaMM said...

Excellent review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. I love the epistolary form too. Thank you so much for being on the tour, Anna!

AmandaSue said...

This sounds like a great book (and so far all the reviews have been good that I've read) I didn't grow up with a mother, so I think it makes me want to read it even more. And I find it interesting that it was written by a male. Thanks so much for the chance into this giveaway.

unforgetable_dreamer_always(at)hotmail.com

MoziEsmé said...

Looks like a sweet book!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Jo-Jo said...

I would love a chance to win this one!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Tina said...

Definitely one I want to read Please enter me...

tbranco AT hughes DOT net

Alice Teh said...

I've heard many good things about this book too. I'd love to enter but am not eligible. That's OK, though. Good luck to all the others! :D

Molly said...

Oh - I would LOVE to be entered in this giveaway!

I read the first page a few months ago and was immediately attracted to the story. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I was unable to read it at that time.

I hope to read it sometime this summer though!!

Mstermind1 at gmail dot com

Literary Feline said...

I wonder sometimes what someone would make of my journals, may of which are written in letter form. They aren't nearly interesting enough to publish, but this book, even though fiction, made me think of that.

Debi said...

The review was wonder. As a mother of two daughters and two stepdaughters I would love to read this book. I like the idea of reading it in one evening.

debraldufek AT hotmail DOT com

Scrappy Cat said...

This book is on my wish list - I'd love to win a copy!

Arch said...

Your review about this book sounds interesting and after having recently read the 'Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, I am eager to read more books written in the epistolary format..I feel this format makes for a lighter read than a regular novel...

I sure would love to win this book.

archanaskorner[at]gmail[dot]com

- arch

Debbie F said...

Please include me! This sounds like a wonderful read! Thank you so much!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Anna said...

Thank you all for the kind words about my review. I hope you all get a chance to read this book.

Susan: As always, thanks for posting the giveaway!

Literary Feline: I've wondered the same thing about my journals. I stopped journaling after high school, but the ones I kept are oh-so-dramatic!

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. The winner will be chosen by Randomizer.org and announced soon.

Lisa said...

When I finished this one, I came away with the impression of liking it quite a lot. But the more I thought about it, the more the little things jumped out to annoy me. I wish Bishop would have found a different way to tell Laura's story.

Anna said...

Lisa: I'm sorry you were disappointed in the long run. While I don't think it's believable that a mother would write such a long letter to her daughter, I thought it was an interesting way to frame the story.