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.
If you have followed me for any length of time and really read my reviews, you know I am a lover of good, solid, real characters. In fact, my history will show you I am always going to choose characters over nearly every other aspect of a book. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is a ginormous read with such strong characters that I found it hard to put down. What’s more, there isn’t a single character in this book I liked – NOT ONE! – yet I still loved this book.
My reading history and reviews will also reveal my love of books that mix the past and the present and that is exactly what I got with this book. Miss Judith Kratt, a proper Southern woman from an old family is nearing the end of her life and to that end, she is determined to inventory the goods and items in her home for the sake of posterity. As the inventory begins, Miss Judith is taken away, deep into her family’s tragic past to relive how each item, each object factored into the awful that is her history. Even to Miss Judith it seems the items are the carriers of the past, the conduits of tragedy making her list and her memories even more painful.
For decades, Miss Judith has worked to ignore her family’s history. If pressed, she will recount her family’s successes while glossing over the uglier truths those with long memories can still recount. Those truths most certainly involve bigotry, classism, bribery, bullying, and any number of criminal activities up to and including murder. Oh yes, the Kratt family most certainly epitomizes infamy and Miss Judith has worked hard to forget not only these ugly truths but her role in many of them. It isn’t until her inventory begins and long-lost sister comes back home that Miss Judith begins to face the ugly truths of her past.
Make no mistake, Miss Judith’s numerous trips down memory lane coupled with her sister’s recollections are shocking to all involved and completely alter how both women view the events of their collective past. In fact, the secrets and memories that leak out and sometimes get spat out are vile, horrible things that have been allowed to fester for decades. The unearthing of these secrets, the revelations cause everyone involved to rethink their long-held beliefs, especially towards one another.
To make matters far, far worse, Miss Judith and her sister are also dealing with a situation in the present that is beyond distressing. What’s more, as the past begins to come to light, the present situation is greatly impacted and causes the Kratt sister’s to make some difficult decisions that will not only right some of the wrongs of the past, but secure the future for the only innocents in their respective lives.
The Bottom Line: Seriously, there isn’t a single likeable character in this entire book and that made me love it all the more! The merging of the past and the present, the revelation of some very ugly truths, and the despicable acts of literally everyone made this book so very entertaining. Make no mistake, this is by no means an easy read, nor does it deal with easy topics, but the richness, the fullness of the characters and their truly terrible personalities amplify the awful and that very much appealed to me. What one ultimately sees at the end of the read, which is also the end of Miss Judith’s inventory, is an accounting of actions, attitudes, and endeavors and the breaking of a cycle of secrecy that has poisoned a family for decades. For myself, I found this debut novel to be absolutely engrossing and I can’t wait to see what Andrea Bobotis dreams up next!