It will be obvious to the reader from the start that The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt, a debut novel by Andrea Bobotis, is not her first writing. Her practice of the writing craft and her roots in South Carolina are apparent even in the beginning obituary, “Quincy Kratt, age 14, who sustained a fatal gunshot wound on December 20 , 1929 . . . The principal suspect in the shooting is a negro named Charlie Watson, who is employed by the Kratt Mercantile Company and whose whereabouts are yet unknown.”
The setting of the body of the book begins in 1989 as his older sister Miss Judith Kratt reminisces, “Whenever I hear a train’s horn in the distance, that bruised sound, I think of Quincy.” As she nears the end of her life, it occurs to her to make an inventory of the items in the grand family home built and furnished by her father. She and Olva, who is neither completely family nor completely help, are all who are left. Her autocratic father, her subservient mother, and her rescuing Aunt Dee are dead. Her younger sister Rosemarie left the day Quincy was murdered, never to be heard of again.
The inventory brings the flashbacks of family secrets. Unexpectedly, Rosemarie turns up, determined to make things right and tell the truth of what really happened in that segregated society. Often, the reader may feel smug and more knowledgeable than the characters in the story, but the author’s skillful red herrings leave enough surprise for the end.
While the author has written many other things and taught creative writing, this is her first novel. Let’s hope it’s not her last.