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The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt

A Novel

by Andrea Bobotis

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis X
The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2019, 320 pages
    Jul 2019, 320 pages


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There are currently 22 reader reviews for The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

An outstanding debut novel.
“Fair to middlin’. The phrase called up a memory for me, too. Of Grandfather DeLour, Mama’s father. ‘You are only fair to middlin’,’ he had once told me solemnly as I played with my dolls on the front porch steps. ‘But your sister, she’s the finest grade there is.’ Everything in Grandfather DeLour’s life, no matter how disparate— his grandchildren, the taste of his pipe tobacco, the fitness of his horse— he assessed in the language used to grade cotton”

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is the first novel by American author, Andrea Bobotis. When seventy-five-year-old Miss Judith Kratt tells her coloured companion (not maid!), Olva DeLour, that she intends to make an inventory of her home in Bound, South Carolina, because it is time, several things happen: listing all the notable items in the house she has lived in all her life brings back some stirring memories; and her younger sister, Rosemarie, absent some sixty years, returns.

Back in 1929, when Miss Judith was fifteen, inventory was her main duty at the Kratt Mercantile Company (est. 1913), so this is a natural thing for her to do, and takes her back there, to the events that culminated in the shooting death of her fourteen-year-old brother, Quincy. The York Herald stated that Kratt Mercantile Company mechanic, Charlie Watson was the prime suspect for the murder but Miss Judith was there, and she knows the truth.

Not that Quincy Kratt was a sweet innocent boy. He took after his father, Daddy Kratt, a thoroughly nasty man. Even Miss Judith herself does not come across as all that likeable but perhaps the observation she makes to Olva applies to herself (and maybe Quincy too): “It is true some of these fictional heroines have challenging personalities, but defects of character are often an outcome of circumstances, are they not?”

For sixty years, Miss Judith has kept the family secrets, and now, it seems, with Rosemarie back, they are going to come out. Olva, too, feels the time has come for some revelations, but more importantly, she is determined to keep those dear to her safe.

The story is told with the tone and cadence of an imperious Southern Lady, as Miss Judith’s statements demonstrate: “Olva and I share the belief that the world reveals itself to you if you take the time to sit and wait for it. Waiting, I’ve found, is not most people’s area of expertise. Olva is a blessed aberration” and “It never ceased to astonish me that we Kratt children grew up in the same hot cocoon of childhood yet emerged as such singular organisms, barely even the same species.”

Given the era and the setting, racism is, of course, bound to rear its ugly head, although even sixty years on, the undercurrent is still there. Olva remarks “It’s a luxury to be able to write or speak in the way you want.” Bobotis has a talent for descriptive prose: “…this gave the sense of the room having been tipped on its side and shaken by a curious child.”

The narrative alternates between 1929 and 1989, with each chapter of the latter era followed by Miss Judith’s cumulative inventory list. While initially the pace is very measured, it is worth persisting for a dramatic climax involving the family’s Purdey shotgun and the heart-warming resolution. An outstanding debut novel.
Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Lift a glass of Southern Comfort!
In the tradition of William Faulkner, Andrea Bobotis has succeeded in her debut novel, "The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt", to tell the secrets of a once prominent Southern family in a clear and concise"Southern"voice that is lilting yet packs a punch when you least expect it. Through using the writing of an inventory list of "things"that have been acquired by the family, Miss Judith allows the reader an
inside view of how the Kratts conducted their business and lives and ultimately self-destructive. Our predisposition of how a family of prominence should conduct their lives and business with honesty, leadership and compassion, is peeled away like a Vidalia onion to see the good(?), the bad and the ugly. Every family has its' dirty secrets and the Kratts are no exception. As Miss Judith nears the end of her life, she has a need to "itemize" her and her families' life , setting her passage to the next world.
I would highly recommend reading this book while lounging on a chaise positioned on a veranda to feel a light breeze infused with the scent of magnolias while enjoying a mint julep or a Southern Comfort neat!!
Patricia W. (Homewood, AL)

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt
After receiving a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is Southern at its very best. The last list is an inventory of items within the family home in a small southern town. Each one has a definite memory attached and through the sharing of these we learn the families history and secrets. We are told of the rise and fall from prominence of the Kratt family. There is love, loss, racial tension, jealousy and revenge. While the Kratts are well known, they are not all well liked.The narrator of the story does a good job of including the reader to feel apart of their life. These are the kinds of books I really enjoy. To be Southern is to feel by all your senses and we are allowed to do this here. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to spend quality time in memories..
Carmel B. (The Villages, FL)

History or Current Events?
The objects on Judith Kratt's last list seem to come to life, telling us stories of love and hate, guilt and shame, sibling rivalry and loyalty, old age and regret. Oh, and let us not forget, bigotry. But the dual bonds holding the characters, scenes and plot together are ancestry and heritage. One is left wondering if it is 1929 or 2019?

The writing is imaginative and clever: "The constellation of hats I saw below was impressive. Every shape and size of hat imaginable was represented. Hats molded snugly to mannequin heads, and others perched lightly as if anticipating the cranial sensitivities of their future owners."

Andrea Bobotis is masterful at conveying feelings that grant the reader entry: "Sometimes, I felt I was two people in one body, the first reaching out for others, and the second holding back because I was no good at sustaining whatever I managed to establish, all my effort spent trying not to offend with my words, which on their way from my mind to my mouth always became sharper."

As the women in this tale evolve, so too their treasures. Suspenseful. Thought-provoking at every turn of the page. Remarkable.
Susan R. (Julian, NC)

Southern Fiction
I read this beautifully written debut novel very slowly so that I didn't miss any of the lyrical writing and character development. This novel is Southern fiction at its best.

The year is 1989 and Judith Kratt is 75 years old and living in the large family home in Bound, SC with Olva, a black servant who is also her only friend. Judith has decided that she needs to make an inventory of all of the wonderful items in her home. She has no heirs but feels that she is the keeper of the Kratt family valuables and, as importantly, it's stories. "Our memories orient us just like the furniture in the sunroom." As she begins to make a list of items, she ties them to stories in her family history and at the end of every one of the 1989 chapters, there is an ongoing list of items that she's mentioned in her stories. Her memories take her back to the early 1930s when many people are suffering due to the depression. Her father is the big man in town and owns most of the mills as well as a new department store. Judith is 15 the year that the store opens and lives with her parents, sister and brother. A tragic event during this time changes the lives of her and her family forever. As Judith makes her lists in 1989, her past is gradually revealed and she is able to see her life and the effect that her attitudes as a child had on her life and the lives of the people around her. Will knowledge that she gleans from her past help her make changes or will her focus stay only on the physical items in her house?

This multi-layered story about loyalty, loss and family - not just the family that they are born into but the family created by people who love them. So sit down on that porch swing with a large glass of sweetened ice tea and prepare to walk down memory lane with Miss Judith.
Nikki M. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Don't miss this Southern story!
This was classic Southern fiction at its best! Quirky characters, interesting plotline, and great writing. I loved the device of using objects to propel the story forward. Well done!
Susan L. (Alexandria, VA)

inventory of a Life
This Southern novel is filled with deeply drawn characters who see the world, and the items that fill it, from vastly different perspectives. The characters were flawed, broken and yet strong. I loved the way Judith's inventory captured not only the items in the home but the stories around them. The stories revealed the characters and their history. This is a book about family, race, and forgiveness. It was a pleasure to read. I could not help but feel for the people who inhabited Bound, South Carolina.
Molly K. (San Jose, CA)

A Table of Characters
I loved the story. The writing is exquisite. I loved the small town southern setting. I loved the mystery and how the clues revealed themselves slowly throughout the book. I liked the first person narrative; normally, I don't.

I agree with most of the previous reviewers, and I will recommend this book to my reading friends. I look forward to the author's next offering and wish her much success.

However, I make one suggestion. This story has many characters, and I found myself thumbing backward to refresh my memory as to who they were. Please, it would be helpful to include a "table of characters" in the preface.
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