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.