Letter to My Daughter

Letter to My Daughter

by George Bishop

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Overview

A fight, ended by a slap, sends Elizabeth out the door of her Baton Rouge home on the eve of her fifteenth birthday. Her mother, Laura, is left to fret and worry—and remember. Wracked with guilt as she awaits Liz’s return, Laura begins a letter to her daughter, hoping to convey “everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have.” In her painfully candid confession, Laura shares memories of her own troubled adolescence in rural Louisiana, her bittersweet relationship with a boy she loved despite her parents’ disapproval, and a personal tragedy that she can never forget. An absorbing and affirming debut, Letter to My Daughter is a heartwrenching novel of mothers, daughters, and the lessons we all learn when we come of age.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345515988
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/16/2010
Pages: 148
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

George Bishop holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has spent most of the past decade living and teaching overseas in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



March 22, 2004

Baton Rouge


Dear Elizabeth,

How to begin this? It’s early morning and I’m sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you’re all right. I haven’t slept since you left. Your father says there’s no sense in phoning the police yet; you’re probably just blowing off steam, and you’ll be back as soon as you run out of money or the car runs out of gas, whichever comes first. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, he says. What with the way you spoke to me last night, it would take more forbearance than anyone’s capable of not to react the way I did, and besides, it wasn’t even that much of a slap.

Still, I blame myself. I keep seeing the look on your face as you brought your hand up to your cheek—the shock, the hurt, then the cold stare that bordered on hatred. When I heard the back door close in the middle of the night, I thought to myself, Well. There she goes. But it was only when I was standing on the driveway in my nightgown watching the taillights of my car disappear down the street that I understood just how bad this has become.

I’ll try not to insult you by saying I know how it feels to be fifteen. (I can see you rolling your eyes.) But believe it or not, I was your age once, and I had the same ugly fights with my parents. And I promised myself that if I ever had a daughter, I would be a better parent to her than mine were to me. My daughter, I told myself, would never have to endure the same inept upbringing that I did. I would be the perfect mother: patient and understanding, kind and sensible. I would listen to all my girl’s problems, help her when she needed it, and together we would build a bridge of trust that would carry us both into old age. Our relationship—it seemed so simple then—would be marked by love, not war.

Well. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, do they? Sometimes when I’m yelling at you for coming in late, or criticizing your choice of friends, or your taste in clothing, or your apparent indifference to anything having to do with family or school or future, I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth. My mother’s very words, even. In spite of all my best intentions, I find myself becoming her. And you, of course, become me, reacting the same way I reacted when I was your age, revisiting all the same hurts that I suffered, and so completing one great big vicious circle of ineptitude.

I want to stop this. I’ve thought and thought, and I’m not sure how to go about it, except maybe to make it a rule to do everything that my mother didn’t do and not to do everything that she did—a crude way to right the wrongs, no doubt, and not altogether fair to my mother, who on occasion could be a decent person.

But one thing I’ve realized that my mother never did—and this was perhaps her greatest failing as a parent—the one thing she never did was to give me any good honest advice about growing up. Oh, she gave me plenty of rules, to be sure. She was a fountain of rules: sit up straight, keep your legs together, don’t run, don’t shout, don’t frown, don’t wear too much makeup or boys will think you’re a tramp. But she never told me what I really wanted to know: How does a girl grow up? How does a girl make it through that miserable age called adolescence and finally get to become a woman?

This was something I thought I might be able to help you with. I always pictured us sitting down together and having a talk, mother to daughter. You’d take your earphones out, I’d turn off the TV. Your father would be out running errands and so we’d have the whole afternoon to ourselves. In this talk, I would begin by telling you, as straightforwardly as I could, the story of my own adolescence. My intention would be not to shock or embarrass you, but to try and show you we’re not all that different, you and I. I do know what it’s like to be your age: I was there once, after all. I lived through it. And hearing the mistakes I made, you might learn from them and not have to repeat them. You could be spared my scars, in other words, so that the life you grow up in might be better than the one I had. Today, I thought, would be a good time for us to have this talk, your fifteenth birthday.

As nice as it sounds, that probably isn’t going to happen, is it? I think I made sure of that last night when I slapped you and drove you from our home. I could hardly blame you now if you don’t want to listen to me. It’ll take more than apologies for you to begin to trust me again.

So what I’ve decided to do is that while I’m sitting here waiting for you to return, I’ll write down in a letter everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have. Maybe a letter is a poor substitute for the talk I always wanted us to have. But it’s a start at least, and I hope you’ll find it in yourself, if not today then sometime in the future, to accept it in the same spirit that I write it. Think of it as my birthday present to you—something that my mother never told me, but that I’ll endeavor now with all my heart to tell you: the truth about how a girl grows up. The truth about life.

I’m on my third cup of coffee now and there’s still no sign of you. Your dad’s out back mowing the grass like nothing ever happened. I’m not going to get all panicky, not yet. It’s still early, and I intend to keep my mind from imagining the worst. But I do hope you’ll be back in time to spend at least some of your birthday with us. I do hope you’re okay, Liz.

Chapter Two


“Begin at the beginning,” Sister Mary Margaret always told us.

The beginning of this, I suppose, is 1969, when I was your age, a freshman in high school. We still had the farm then—you know, the old house in Zachary where your Mams and Gramps used to live. Zachary wasn’t like it is today. It really was the sticks then. I often felt we might’ve been living on Mars for all the contact we had with the rest of the world. Our house was at the end of a gravel road, a mile and a half from any other home, and I mostly hated living there. I was only a farm girl in the sense that I could ride a horse and, if forced to, I could milk a cow. But as a teenager, generally I wanted nothing to do with cows and horses and alfalfa crops. I went to school, read magazines, and watched The Partridge Family on TV on Friday nights, suspecting that everyone in the world lived a more glamorous and exciting life than I did. Probably a lot like you.

Your grandparents were Baptists, as you know, and certainly more strict with me than I’ve ever been with you. They were what, if you were feeling generous, you might call conservative. If you were feeling more honest, you might call them narrow-minded and racist. Mom loathed The Partridge Family—thought it was a disgrace that a single mother would tramp around the country with all those long- haired kids in a painted school bus. And Dad—well, your grandfather loathed the blacks. Sorry to say.

The schools in Louisiana were just then getting integrated, if you can believe that. I’m sure I’ve told you this before. Nineteen seventy was the year all the white students from Zachary High and all the black students from Lincoln High were to be mixed up together at one school. You can imagine the commotion this announcement caused, especially among people like your grandfather. There were rallies, the National Guard was called in, the KKK was called in . . .

And my parents began talking of sending me away to Catholic boarding school in Baton Rouge. Better that, my father said, than letting me spend one single day sitting side by side in a classroom with those “god damn coloreds.”

Now here’s the part I never told you about, at least not in any detail. You’ve only known him as “a boy I grew up with,” but he had a name. It was Tim Prejean.

Tim was seventeen, a senior at Zachary High School when I was a freshman. We met—or I should say, we first spoke—at the Freshman- Senior Get Acquainted Dance. I was standing with my girlfriends near the bleachers in the gym, all of us in our pressed bell-bottoms and platform shoes, when he came over and asked me to dance. “Hey, um, Laura,” he said, or something to that effect. “Wanna dance?”

I was surprised he knew my name. We rode the same bus to school in the morning, and I’d seen him in the cafeteria, but we had never before openly acknowledged one another. Tim wasn’t one of the more popular boys at school. His shoulders were too narrow and his neck too thin, and he went in for the geek clubs like the Eagle Scouts and Ham Radio Enthusiasts. But he had wonderful dark brown hair that hung down low over his forehead so that it almost covered his right eye, and on the night of the Freshman-Senior Get Acquainted Dance he wore aftershave and a blue blazer over a dashing white turtleneck. The song, I remember, was “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies—a dumb song, and not an easy one to dance to. Still, he was a senior, and I was a freshman, and there were crepe paper streamers and colored lights overhead—probably someone had spiked the punch, too—and taken all together, it was enough to make our meeting that night, no matter how clumsy, feel thrilling and romantic.

We began dating, although we didn’t call it that. We sat together on the bus going to school. We sat together at lunch. We sat together on the bus coming home, and then we talked to each other on the phone in the evening. When we could, we met at the Greenwoods Mall on the weekends. It was always a little awkward because he had his friends and I had mine, and there was the two-year age difference between us. But the biggest problem was his family.

The Prejeans weren’t “landowners,” as I had been taught to call our own family. The Prejeans came from Cajun stock, and anyone who spoke any French in Zachary in those days was considered little better than black. “Swamp rats” my father called them, or worse, when he was joking with his farm buddies, “bayou niggers.”

Tim’s father, Jack Prejean, owned a dusty radio and TV repair shop in downtown Zachary that hardly anyone visited anymore—anyone in this case meaning white folks like us. His shop was on a mixed street, as it was called, and most of his customers were black. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Prejeans lived in a camping trailer parked in a clump of woods at the far edge of Zachary, out past where Kleinpeter Dairy used to be. By most outward appearances, in other words, Tim’s family lived up to the stereotypes people like my father had of people like the Prejeans.

But the Prejeans, I knew, hadn’t always been this poor. They had once lived in a tidy two-bedroom house within walking distance of the elementary school. Mr. Prejean’s radio and TV repair shop had once done a respectable business, too, before Greenwoods Mall was built and people started vacating the downtown. But it was Mrs. Prejean’s disease that finally and truly ruined the family.

This was before Tim and I began going out together, and I only knew the Prejeans insomuch as everyone knew everyone else in Zachary in those days. But even I knew about the disease. That was how people whispered about it: “the disease.” It was, I’d heard rumored, syphilis, and what little I knew of that made it sound especially ugly and obscene, something dimly associated with soldiers and black people and Frenchmen. Mrs. Prejean—Suzy—made occasional outings into town during the early stages of her illness, and a Suzy Prejean sighting was always the subject of gruesome telephone gossip among our neighborhood moms. The school bus passed the Prejeans’s house every day coming and going, and I would sit pressed by the window watching for her ghostly figure hiding behind the white curtains, wondering what the disease looked like, imagining the house itself to be pale and radiant with sickness.

Jack Prejean didn’t have any medical insurance, and a year of hospital bills took all his money and most of what he owned. When his poor wife finally died, in a wild display of grief and love he sold their house to pay for her funeral. It was a huge affair, with an extravagant velvet-lined brass casket laid out on the altar among an astonishing array of flowers and candles. There was a full choir, with an organist brought in from Baton Rouge, and a whole gang of priests and servers in red and white robes swinging censers. After the service we followed a sleek black hearse and three rented limousines to the cemetery, where we watched as the beautiful coffin was lowered into the ground below an elaborate white marble memorial of a life-sized woman in classical dress reaching out to pluck a rose from a vine. The Suzy Prejean funeral was such a big event in Zachary that year, in fact, that people who barely knew the Prejeans, people who didn’t really give a good damn about them—people like my mother— turned up in their best Jacqueline Kennedy outfits at St. Aloysius Catholic Church to be a part of it. Funerals were especially popular in those days.

The extravagant service, though, still wasn’t enough to redeem the character of Jack’s wife in the eyes of the town, or at least in the eyes of my parents. Even when we found out it wasn’t syphilis but ovarian cancer that had killed Suzy Prejean, my parents still figured, in their own mean way, that the Prejeans had got what they deserved.

“All the flowers in the world can’t buy salvation,” was how my mother put it.

Reading Group Guide

1. Mother-daughter relationships are the crux of this novel. How are these often complicated relationships portrayed? What differences, if any, do you see between the different generations, i.e., between Laura and her mother and between Liz and Laura? Do these portrayals reflect your own relationship with your mother? How?

2. Liz’s side of the story is never presented in the novel. What impressions of her do you get from Laura’s letter? Do you think Liz and Laura have a relationship similar to Laura’s relationship with her own mother?

3. Laura writes this letter to Liz in hopes of breaking the cycle of distrust and miscommunication that she experienced with her own mother. Do you think that this letter will have the  effect that Laura would like it to? Do you think that writing this letter makes Laura more sympathetic to her own mother? Do you think that writing this letter was the right thing for Laura to do after her daughter ran away?

4. Laura waits until Liz is fifteen to tell her the truth about her own teenage years. Do you think it would have made a difference if she had shared her story with Liz earlier? What do you think Liz’s reaction to it will be?

5. Laura knows, even before their disastrous meeting, that her parents disapprove of her dating Tim. How do you think this affected her attraction to him and her devotion to their relationship?

6. Do you think Laura’s parents did the right thing by sending her away to school? What do you think their motivations were when they made the decision to send her away? Ultimately, did Laura’s experience at Sacred Heart make her a more or a less dutiful daughter?

7. When Tim tells Laura that he has enlisted in the army, he claims he’s doing it for her. Do you think he and Laura both truly believe this at the time? Should Laura have asked him not to go, as her older self thinks she should have?

8. Laura makes a scrapbook for Tim of everything she has been doing while they’ve been apart because she wants to share everything with him. She says, “If you had to choose the moments that best represented your life, what would they be? The small actions that pass almost without our noticing them, yet that we spend most of our time doing;
aren’t these in fact the real stuff of our lives?” (p. 56) Do you agree with Laura? How would you answer her question?

9. Sister Mary Margaret tries to help Laura and ensures that she receives Tim’s letters. Why do you think she puts her own job in jeopardy to help Laura? Do you think her transfer to another school was appropriate?

10. Laura refers to herself and her group of friends at Sacred Heart as the “charity cases.” Do you think Laura’s status remained this way throughout her high school years, especially after she found her niche on the newspaper staff? To what extent is this experience universal for high school students?

11. Laura starts to feel disconnected from Tim after not seeing him for a very long time and as she becomes more involved in life at Sacred Heart. And later, she stops reading Tim’s letters, as they become more depressing and pessimistic. She says, “I couldn’t take on the burden of being his lifesaver, too, his one and only hope” (p. 115). How did you feel about Laura’s behavior toward Tim? Did your view of her character change? Why or why not?

12. In his final letter to Laura, Tim wonders whether or not she is in agreement with his dream of what their future would be like, and says that, regardless, the thought of her helped him get through each day and be “a little bit kinder or a little bit braver” (p. 124). Do you think Tim thought Laura would still be waiting for him when he returned? How important are beliefs like this, even if false, during times of extreme duress?

13. Laura and Tim are young when they first meet, and over the course of their courtship both of them grow and mature in different ways. Do you think this is an accurate representation of first love?

14. Laura agreed to go the senior prom with Chip, the fellow journalist that had been pursuing her despite her relationship with Tim. Laura is unfaithful to Tim with Chip, and Chip eventually stops talking to Laura after this. Laura doesn’t blame Chip for  his reaction, and is very hard on herself for her behavior. Do you agree with Laura’s take on the situation? How do you think Liz will react to hearing this story about her mother’s past?

15. Laura sees her decision to get a tattoo in memory of Tim as an inspired moment. “It was as if the act had been there all along, in my mind and in my body, only waiting for this moment to be realized” (p. 126). Do you think this was an appropriate way to honor Tim? What do you think Laura’s decision to get a tattoo of lines from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet and to name her daughter after this poet really represents to Laura?

16. Laura refers to Liz’s father as she frets about Liz’s disappearance, and describes to Liz what he is doing while they are waiting for her to come home. As you were  reading, did you think that Liz’s father would be either Tim or Chip? Who do you imagine Laura ended up marrying?

17. In the last scene of the novel, Laura is finishing her letter to Liz when she hears a car approaching. Do you think this is Liz coming home? Why or why not?

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Letter to My Daughter 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
LegalBeagle More than 1 year ago
After a terrible family fight, Laura, the protagonist in a Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop, pens a letter to her runaway daughter Liz. While Laura awaits fifteen year old Liz's return she decides to write her a letter. In short, to tell her daughter the things she always wanted to tell her, but never did. Laura's conversational letter, which spans the length of the novella, is her attempt to share her own tumultuous teenage years during the Vietnam era. As Laura confesses: " 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 at 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, remain 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." This slender (126 pages), yet riveting novella, can easily be devoured in one sitting. The letter itself is believable as a mother writing to her young daughter. Letter to My Daughter is a compelling and candid coming of age saga of young life and love during the early seventies. (Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 16, 2010), 160 pages Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.)
perpetualpageturner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I got this book in the mail I immediately fell in love with the cover but I was a little skeptical about the content as this book was super thin! I know you can't always judge a book by a cover or its size but I tend to do that.This slim little book is written as a letter that a mother is writing to her daughter who is 15 and has just run away. She is reflecting on the tumultuous relationship that is, and always will be, the one of mother & daughter. She reflects on her own upbringing and the resentments she had of her own mother (and father) and how the one with her own daughter is eerily similar in ways. She writes these letters with the hopes that when her daughter returns she will be able to read them, learn, forgive, and take baby steps toward mending their relationship. The content of this letter reveals the events that shaped the mother's life between the ages of 15-18 that the mother is hoping will show her daughter how much she truly does understood the plight of the teenager & her remorse regarding their relationships present state.I found myself quickly involved in the story and couldn't put it down. The mother/daughter relationship is always one of interest to me and I found the insights honest, relatable, and very delicately handled. The idea of a letter from my mother like this brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could have gotten something like this; perhaps I would have learned to better appreciate my mother when she was still alive. The most amazing thing to me is that this book was written by a man. I am amazed at how he was able to truly capture such complexities of the mother/daughter relationship.My only gripe with this book is that I just wondered why the mother didn't seem to be worried and could be calm enough to sit down and write a letter like this. I would think most mothers would be frantically rushing around and pacing until their daughter came back.I have to be honest. I don't know what drew me to this book when I was browsing the giveaways because it didn't seem like a book that I would normally pick up. However, I'm really glad that I won it.
LiteraryLinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A teen daughter has run away. Her parents are frantic. Mother decides to write daughter a letter telling her all the things she has wanted to tell her for a long time. She tells of her relationship with her own mother and how that has affected her relationship with her own daughter. Her experiences as a young teen will resonate with many people. I enjoyed the story and have my own idea of how it all turned out.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not often that one wishes a book were longer than it is, but I almost wish there was just a little bit more to this one. After her teenage daughter storms out of the house, Laura sets about writing her a letter in which she hopes to explain that she really does understand what it's like to be a teenager. Bishop manages to pack a lot of emotional depth into this story, while keeping the prose very direct and free of frills.But I do wish the story had been extended just a bit. It's evident that Laura manages to salvage some kind of relationship with her parents; how did that come about? What happened after Laura graduated high school? How did she meet the man we know only as "your father," who is clearly not the boyfriend of Laura's teenage years, but with whom she seems to have a good marriage? It is one thing to let your daughter in on the secret that you were once a teenager too and can understand what she¿s going through, but this story might have benefited if Laura were also able to let her daughter see the light at the end of the teenager-tunnel.
busyreadin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very simple story written in letter form by a mother whose daughter has run away. As the mother waits for her return, she writes of her relationship with her parents, and the events in her teen years that made her the adult she is now.Interesting that the author is male. I felt he used the female voice/emotion very well.
EllenH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'A fight ended with a slap, sends 15 year old Elizabeth out the door with Moms car. Her Mother Laura is left to worry and remember. Wracked with guilt as she awaits her return, Laura, begins a letter, hoping to convey "everything I've always meant to tell you but never have."'This letter, the story of her own painful adolescence and hopes for her own daughter is captivating and I was able to relate to her struggles with her Mother and her daughter. That famous promise to 'Never treat my daughter that way' along with her wish taht she could go back & treat her Mother with more compassion struck home.This is a great first novel for George Bishop. I wish I could do as well with a letter for my daughter. Wanting to share this book with many people, I should give it to my public library, but find I'm not sure I want to part with it.
bookaholicmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! When her daughter runs away from home after a heated arguement, Laura decides to write her daughter a letter while she waits for word of where her daughter is. She tells about her teenage years and why she is the mother she is to her daughter. This book was written beautifully by George Bishop who does a great job capturing the dynamics of a mother/daughter relationship. I read this book in one sitting!
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When fifteen year old Liz runs away from home, her mother, Laura, sits down and writes a letter to her. This is Laura¿s way of coping with the worry and explaining some things to Liz. In the letter, Laura tells Liz how much she loves her, how she¿d hoped to have a better relationship with her daughter, and about her own life as a teenager.George Bishop does a remarkable job writing Letter to My Daughter from a female point of view. He does such a remarkable job evoking emotion that I felt that I was sitting at the table with Laura while she was struggling with pain and doubt and pouring her heart out.Liz¿s mother was few years older than me, but I can still remember what it was like when she writes of her youth - a time when our country was struggling with prejudices and the Vietnam War divided us.I love the unique way this story is told and thoroughly enjoyed it. It¿s a fast, but emotional, read and I found myself engrossed in it. I shed quite a few tears while reading Letter to My Daughter, so be prepared with tissues when you read it. This book made me think too, because I found myself relating to Laura both as a mother and as a daughter.
jocraddock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When do mothers share with their daughters the seminal events of young adulthood that shaped their lives? That made them reconsider the world and those around them? For Laura, it was writing a letter while waiting for word about runaway daughter, Liz.This is a poignant story of love, hurt, and hope. How easily those feelings and fears of high school can come back! Yes, dear daughter, I remember. And, I survived.If you want to talk with your daughter, or want to talk with your mom, this might be the book to leave out on the lamp table. Hopefully no one person's story is quite so chock-full, but it might help open the space to begin the conversation.
DonnerLibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Letter to My Daughter is a very short novel at only 160 pages. The length and the conversational tone of the letter make it a very fast read despite the very emotional content. Laura's letter to her daughter, Liz, is filled with the powerful emotion of a mother worrying for her daughter as well as the emotions she felt as a teenager. The book was less about the relationship between mother and daughter as it was the experience of being a daughter and being a mother. We never actually meet Liz, only seeing her through her mother's eyes, and we never meet Laura's mother but see her through the eyes of her daughter. Laura is both the author and the central character as this is her story.Letter to My Daughter is honest, straightforward, and filled with the pain and confusion of being a teenager. Laura fully reveals herself to her daughter in this letter yet, for this book, whether Liz actually reads the letter and gains a deeper understanding of her mother is irrelevant. It is enough that Laura finally told her story.
Tinasbookreviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A sorrowful book filled with a mother¿s past and present lamenting. Letter to my daughter is just that- a very long letter addressed to a fifteen year old rebellious girl who has just ran away from home. Laura ¿ hoping, praying, waiting for Elizabeth¿s return decides to write about her teenage life and relay to Elizabeth that she too at one time was fifteen and she too faced the struggles of hating her parents and having life fall to pieces around her¿¿A book with a beautiful premise of mother and daughter relationships failed short to showcase the dynamics of mother and daughter and focused more on political agenda. Someone needs to throw this book a bone¿the same yammering story over the Vietnam War. The same liberal drivel I¿ve heard a thousand times: Young naïve girl whips her panties down for the soft-eyed poor boy, whose only choice after the couple has been torn apart by her racist, bigot Conservative parents is to enlist in the Army and head off to Vietnam.While Tim is off fighting in the war, losing his soul and having his spirit crushed, Laura is at boarding school, being educated by the strength and backbone of investigative journalism, she grows apart (big surprise) from the idea of Tim and Tim himself. The sparkle of a story is defiantly there, luring us in with Laura¿s coming of age story, but the political, republican /conservative bashing got so thick I was seriously battling the cotton candy coating over my eyes.
roseysweetpea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I loved this book. I was surprised that a man could write so convincingly about a woman's emotions, especially the complicated feelings of first love, loss and adolescence. I found the writing insightful and pure. I highly recommend this book and thought that his depiction of life was just so honest. I really felt like I was reading this private letter between mother and daughter. A truly excellent book!
bkswrites on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can¿t say that I dislike the book, but neither can I say it met my expectations. There are many fine images and turns of phrase, and it¿s of a downright dainty length, which I appreciate. But without a review to turn in, I doubt I would have stayed with it, let alone read it in one night. There are two poignant stories here, of two young girls apparently left pretty much on their own to figure out how life works or drown in its sea of troubles. That one is the mother of the other, and seems to offer her little insight from her own experience, is perhaps the saddest thing about the book. We never actually get to know much about the daughter¿s situation, certainly never get to hear her side, but beyond the mother telling of when she was 15 and writing to her 15-year-old daughter, there seem few points of connection between the two (stories or women)Laura begins to tell her story in the expectation that Liz will return within hours. But as those hours turn into full days (at least two; only the start is clearly labeled), Laura¿s story goes on to its logical end, when she¿s 18. For Liz, it¿s 2004, but there is no amber alert raised. In fact, her parents don¿t call authorities until she¿s been missing 24 hours, and even then are mostly shrugged off. This is an only child, only daughter, 15 years old, in Baton Rouge Louisiana, which I must now wonder might be the only place where a 15-year-old is handled by the police as an adult. While Laura distracts herself with her writing, Liz¿s father mows the lawn, tinkers with eyeglass repair, and assumes it will be all right. In a time when we seem obsessed with missing children, I wanted to slap someone for not worrying more about this child. What is most disconnected, though, is Laura¿s story, touching as it might be. Of course, it centers around a boy, a boy of whom her parents disapprove. He is a senior while she is a freshman. And at the first chance they get, they strip and have sex on the floor of a public room of her parents¿ house. Most shockingly, Laura tells her daughter that ¿what we did was a good thing.¿ Even I can hardly blame Laura¿s father for throwing Tim out, beaten bloody and still naked, into the night. The book includes plenty of romantic moments and developments. What is apparently meant to be the dramatic denouement involves a line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning that Laura shared only with a conspiratorial nun, and one of two incarnated mementos that Liz has seen on her mother¿s body but never been told full stories of. But there¿s too much of an epilogue, Bishop scrambling to prevent the drama from having as much impact on Laura¿s life as it does on the surface of her body. We are left wondering why Laura would tell her daughter about it and what lesson Liz could possibly learn from her mother¿s story. But mostly, I¿m afraid, I adopt the practiced shrug of Laura's Tim and move on.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read and review the Advance Reader's Edition of Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop. I read this book in just one reading and found myself transported to my own teen years. The scenarios painted by Mr. Bishop were amazingly on target and interestingly intuitive as this was a female story from start to finish.The book is one very long letter from a distraught mother to her fifteen year old daughter. The two had a fight which ended with the mother slapping the daughter and the daughter leaving the house without telling her parents where she was going or when she was coming back. Haven't we all been there on one level or another? The mother then waits for her daughter to come home and writes her a letter telling her about her own adolescence. The letter takes the reader back to the late 1960s and the VietNam war. And the angst of being in love for the first time. Beyond the basic story, the author leads the reader to think about the war and the effects on young men who were there. In addition, I thought about the legacy we leave our children, in spite of our best efforts not to repeat mistakes of our parents.This was a very short book, but I tore through it - needing to hear the entire history of the mother as well as the fate of the daughter. This is a fascinating debut novel and I look forward to more from Mr. Bishop.
MsGemini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
George Bishop does a good job with this touching story about a Mother's love for her daughter. Laura is a Mom of a teenage daughter, Elizabeth. The story starts with a fight and Elizabeth runs away. Laura is upset and thinks back to the time when she was 15 and the decisions she made in her life. She decides to write a letter to Elizabeth. As a daughter and a mother of a daughter and I can relate to each of these characters. Mr. Bishop writes with emotion and I can feel the love Laura has for Elizabeth.I found it fitting that I read this book the week before Mother's day.
schmapp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A mother has an argument with her daughter and the daughter leaves. The mother writes a hearfelt letter to her daugther talking about her life growing up. This book was a great read and I got through it in a couple sittings. I was able to feel the connection between mother and daughter.
NovelBookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Letters to my Daughter by George Bishop is a remarkable little novel. Written from the perspective of a mom worried about her teenaged daughter and hoping not to turn into her mother, it¿s really hard to imagine a male author hitting the marks as well as this book does. I even spent some moments remembering the Nancy Drew books I read as a kid, where Nancy¿s girlfriend is called George, and I convinced myself that George Bishop was a woman. (Even though the back of the book only refers to him as him or he.) I googled, and nope, as the bookcover states, he is who he is. Hmmm¿okay, now I¿m convinced he grew up in a household with at least 5 sisters. This guy knows mother/daughter relationships in a way that¿s almost spooky. Of course its no secret that all mom¿s want a close relationship with their daughters, and its not always something that we can attain. The line between mom and friend is a difficult one to straddle, and as mom¿s we frequently keep so much of our pasts from our kids. It¿s not because we think they are destined to repeat our mistakes, or even that we think they will or won¿t learn from our mistakes. It¿s more a desire to protect them from the things that can hurt them. When we expose the heartbreaking parts of our lives, the really painful things that we¿ve either done or had done to us, will it help our kids understand we have empathy for them and open the lines of communication? Or will it merely make our kids look at us with a more jaundiced eye, make us lose stature in their eyes? I think these questions are ones that most parents grapple with at one point in time.Letters to my Daughter doesn¿t try to answer these big questions. Instead it gives us a personal peek into the life of a mother who is frantic with worry about her daughter and not sure how to help her. This book has a slightly ambiguous ending, but it really works for it. It¿s a novel I¿d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone, especially the moms and grandmas of teenaged girls, and to the girls themselves. Laura¿s story might not be their mothers, but it shows that we all have stories, unspoken and unheard.(Review copy provided by Random House Publishing Group)
TFS93 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the best book I have read lately. I believe most mothers have stories that they haven't told their daughters. I enjoyed reading the mother's story. I thought the story had a good mix so that it would be interesting to teens, men, and women. I would recommend it to anyone!
Cajunbooklady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderfully written, beautiful, and insightful story about the relationship between a mother and daughter.The format in which the story is told is different and made it so much more personal. It was written, literally, from a mother to her daughter. It followed that long time saying from when we were teenagers..."I'll never be a mom like my mother!"This book threw me through a whirlwind of emotions. I think it's because as a mom and once a teenager, it's impossible NOT to connect to this work. I felt for the teen and for the mom. I will say that this book just FEELS so intimate; almost like you shouldn't be reading into such a bonding moment between the two. BUT, this is what keeps you going! It was just beautiful!I have to say that I was fascinated that a man wrote this book. Maybe, because I never expected a man to "get" the relationship and feelings portrayed. I actually have a guest post from George on that subject coming up a little later. He'll tell us more about that.And to close this up...I'm not sure how many of you are swayed by reviews to go in search of a book. But, if I've ever wanted to be persuasive I hope I've done that here. I truly hope that mom's (and daughter's) will search out this book and read it.
marcejewels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me first say, I was surprised a man wrote this, what a beautiful writing style, just real genuine warm feelings. George Bishop did a fabulous job and many women will be pleased that men do know how to communicate their feelings.I enjoyed this story and it immediately made me think about writing letters to my daughter yearly to give to her when she is older.This book is about the emotions a mom and dad have when they don¿t know where their child is. Did she run away from home, is she just angry and letting off steam, will she come back, is she hurt, is she with a lover, when do we file a missing person, etc. The mom decides to write a letter to help her through the waiting but also to give to her daughter on her return. It was oh so cute and true on how the father dealt with it.The mom writes about her memories as a teenager, I found this fascinating and it made me question myself. Would I want my daughter to know about my first love, her dad and I¿s love journey, about my tattoos, my childhood etc and even minor details about my sex life, yup George Bishop went there but it was touching.We didn¿t get to see Elizabeth¿s reaction to the letters or even if Laura gave them to her. I would love to know what happens next and this is why I didn¿t give it 5 stars, I really missed this part of the story.What was really beautiful was how Elizabeth got her name, which is the kind of thing we should write to our children if it has any story or meaning behind it.If you want a beautifully written story that will make you look at your parenting style and how your childhood affects you, this is for you. Have you ever said I will never be like my mother and then realize you are?This is a fabulous Mother¿s Day gift and I don¿t think it is only for mothers with daughters, mothers with sons would appreciate it also.
missysbooknook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I had seen this book around the blogosphere, I noted that the author was male and I assumed the story was about a father writing a letter to his daughter. So, imagine my surprise when I began the story...and it was the mother who was the narrator, and author of the letter. I was not only surprised, but delighted as the story took hold of me, and I met Laura Jenkins; first as a worried mother of a runaway teenager, then going back in time to her adolescence, getting to know her during the most painful years of her life. In the letter to her daughter Liz, she reveals secrets that she has kept for decades. She outlines her life beginning when she was her daughter's age, fifteen, and what she endured growing up. She keeps reminding her daughter in the letter that things were "not that much different" between she and her parents than they were between Liz and her parents.This is a book that can be read straight through...in one sitting. Yes, it's that good. George Bishop is a very talented and gifted author. He accomplishes the amazing task of verbalizing the special relationship between a mother and her daughter so beautifully. I can honestly say that I was very satisfied with the end of the story. Have a box of tissues handy while you are reading this ...you'll need them.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From My Blog...George Bishop takes on the task of writing a novel about mother-daughter relationships in his novel, Letter To My Daughter. Bishop does remarkably good job writing from the perspective of a mother and an adolescent girl. The premise of the story is fairly straightforward. One evening 15 year-old Elizabeth gets into an argument with her mother, Laura, culminating in Laura slapping Elizabeth resulting in Elizabeth running away. Laura, while waiting for her daughter to return turns to pen and paper and begins writing down everything she had always wanted to tell her daughter about being an adolescent, especially her own experiences as an adolescent. The letter Laura writes is masterfully written and Bishop receives high marks for this amazing part of the book. The issue I have with the book is the fact a 15-year old would take off in her mother's car and they did not even contemplate ringing up the police or looking for her. Considering their daughter is not only a minor but also not a licensed driver, this part did not ring true to me as the mother of 3 adolescents. I had further difficulties trying to comprehend why the mother of a minor felt she, the mother, would need to earn back her daughter's trust and not the other way around. With that said, the letter Laura pens makes for interesting reading and a rather intriguing look at the tumultuous times of the Vietnam Era and what it was like to be an adolescent during that time frame. From a historical perspective I found the novel to be interesting, but the premise for the novel simply did not ring true to me as a mother. I realise everyone will take something different from this novel, which for it's diminutive size is quite full of intriguing details of love, family relations, desegregation, Vietnam, loss, and teenage angst. Letter To My Daughter would make for rather interesting discussion for a book group.
xmaystarx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book while on vacation and found it a quick and enjoyable read. Although it is presented as a letter from a mother to her teenage daughter, this was sort of forgotten as I read the mother's story. The bulk of the book tells the story of the mother's teenage relationship with her first serious boyfriend. This was quite entertaining and I think the book itself could have worked as just this story. It's interesting that the author is a mail writing as a mother and he does it well.
tomgirl571 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I won Letter to My Daughter from Library Thing's Early Reviewers. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. And I gulped it down super quickly! It's pretty short, just a mere 148 pages, but boy was it good!! The whole book is one long letter that a mother writes to her 15 year old daughter after they've had a big fight and the daughter runs off. In her letter, the mother, Laura, tells her daughter the story of her own adolescence, including the pain of switching high schools mid-year, first loves, and even the bumpy relationship she had with her own parents as a teen. The book is so thoughtfully written that it actually seems as if a real mom is writing this letter, not a middle-aged man. It was the kind of thing I wish my mom would write to me sometimes. Some of this book was actually hard to read because of how painful it was. It's so easy to put myself into Laura's shoes, especially now that I'm no longer a teen and can look back on those years. This isn't a "Vietnam War Era" novel, but the war definitely resonates throughout the letter, which makes the story seem even more real. I cried at least twice while reading this, and I'll probably cry again when I someday reread it (because it's def. worth a reread!). I think this book is a great reminder to teens that their parents were once young and made mistakes too. It's also a great reminder to parents that they used to be young and quite similar to the kids they now have.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were several surprises for me when I started reading this book. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a book about letters from a father serving in Vietnam to his daughter. But, it turns out the entire book is one long letter written by a MOTHER to her 15 year old daughter who has just run-away. Mom wants her daughter to know that she understands how it feels to be 15 and misunderstood by the world. The mother gives us what is really her story of growing up, of living in a Catholic girls boarding school where she was sent by her parents to avoid having to go to an integrated school, and to get her away from her boyfriend. How her small acts of rebellion were a constant source of embarrassment to her parents, and a constant thorn in the side of many of her teachers. Having gone to a Catholic girls school myself during that same time period, I was able to relate to the story and particularly to her characterization of some of the nuns.The boyfriend eventually goes to Vietnam and there are letters from him to Mom, which Mom seems able to recreate verbatim after 30 some years.It is actually an endearing and poignant story that pulls the reader in and gently sets us down at the end. A lovely short read. Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing how well a man could write from a mother's point of view. Recommended.