Andrea Bobotis’ “The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt” is a little gem of Southern fiction that wove its way into my heart rather slowly at first, but I ended up totally enamored with it and extremely happy that I had read it.
Miss Judith is now 72 and doing a bit of reflecting on her life, so the narrative touches 1989 and 1929, when she was just a child.
Judith’s father was a prominent member of the Bound, S.C., community, owning both cotton gins and the premier general store in town. As a child, Judith was responsible for keeping a running inventory of everything in the store. This skill plays a major role in the book. She has decided to make a list of all the heirlooms left over the years in the deteriorating old family manse where she still lives with her childhood friend Olva.
It is through these heirlooms that she weaves the family story, each bringing back memories both good and bad, tender and chilling. Her decision to make the list is sparked by a letter telling her that her youngest sibling, Rosemarie, has decided to return home after a long absence.
As the list grows with each memory, the story of the event that set everything in motion becomes clearer, bit by bit, until drawing to a remarkable conclusion. In 1929, their brother, Quincy Kratt, was shot to death, with the prime suspect being Charlie Watson, an employee of the store. It is at this time that Rosemarie disappears.
Actions taken by the family, whether well-intentioned or not, have long-lasting consequences. The complexity of the story grows just quickly enough to pique the reader’s curiosity, but not fast enough to make the climax easy to predict.
Bobotis deals with some difficult topics very skillfully: racism, family secrets and their repercussions, deception, family relationships and survival of the fittest.
Her characters are marvelous, some endearing, others not so likable, but all beautifully portrayed and bringing the story to life.