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Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

Letter to My Daughter (2010)

by George Bishop

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Written by a man, the book is actually a letter from a mother to her runaway daughter. The mother is telling the daughter about her own teen years and her struggles with her own parents. I liked the mother's story; I found it harder to understand why she felt it applicable and buying into the idea that this is the way a mother would spend the hours that her daughter was missing. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Written by a man, the book is actually a letter from a mother to her runaway daughter. The mother is telling the daughter about her own teen years and her struggles with her own parents. I liked the mother's story; I found it harder to understand why she felt it applicable and buying into the idea that this is the way a mother would spend the hours that her daughter was missing. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I got this book because I so enjoyed reading George Bishop's most recent novel, Night of the Comet. Letter to my Daughter is just that - a mother writes about her own teenage experiences to her daughter, who has run away from home. The story she tells, of young love, discrimination, and the Vietnam War, is interesting. What didn't work for me was the letter concept. Bishop uses the letter as an excuse to tell the story, but, of course, an excuse is not needed for a good story. We never learn much about the narrator's daughter, and making her a part of the novel only serves to periodically interrupt the narrative. I found that each time that happened it felt like I was thrown back to that point at the beginning of a novel where I don't yet know the characters and am hoping that the book will be good enough to draw me in to another reality. Bishop has a story to tell, but because he keeps interrupting the flow for no good reason, it is not one that I could completely immerse myself in. ( )
  JGoto | Nov 9, 2013 |
This slim (126-page) novel is the 2010 debut of George Bishop, a former actor and teacher from New Orleans.  Set in Baton Rouge and in Zachary, Louisiana, the book is mostly a long letter written by a mother to her runaway 15-year-old daughter in 2004.  Laura, the mother, looks back at herself at age 15 in 1970, hoping that her experiences will convince her daughter Liz that Laura is capable of understanding her.

In 1970, Zachary was a pretty rural town, just undergoing desegregation in the high school, and Laura's parents are rather strict and conservative with their only child.  They are somewhat bigoted, too, looking down not only on African-Americans, but on the poor whites of the area too - like Laura's older boyfriend Tim.

An incident causes Laura's parents to send her to Baton Rouge to board at a girls Catholic high school there, and Tim joins the Army, at the height of the Vietnam War.  The story follows Laura through the rest of her high school years in her letter to Liz, interspersed with updates in 2004 on he parents' wait for Liz to return.

I read this book in one day, as I was very engrossed in Laura's story.  I was, however, a bit disappointed in the ending.  I would have liked to know more about how Laura met and married Liz's father, and what happened AFTER the ending (but I don't want to give away any spoilers!).

I was also rather amazed at what a good job George Bishop, who is male, did in writing from a woman's viewpoint.  I would recommend this book as an easy, light read, that might be particularly enjoyed by anyone who was a teen in the early 1970s (like me - there were references to some of my favorite songs from that era), as well as girls who went to Catholic school (like me) or who grew up in the South (like me).

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[This review also appears on Bookin' It. This advance reader edition was sent to me by Goodreads.com.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.] ( )
3 vote riofriotex | Aug 22, 2013 |
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. ( )
  LiteraryLinda | Apr 1, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Subtitle: No one seems to care very much
I was expecting a somewhat predictable story of a mother writing a letter to her daughter. Fortunately, I overcame my reticence, and upon reading the first couple of paragraphs I found myself immersed in a riveting story.
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I shall but love thee better after death.
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Sonnetts from the Portuguese, No. 43
For My Father
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Dear Elizabeth,
How to begin this? It's early morning and I'm sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you're all right.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345515986, Hardcover)

George Bishop on Letter to My Daughter

My novel Letter to My Daughter features a middle-aged mother, her 15-year-old daughter, a boy in Vietnam, and a tattoo. Straight off, let me make a confession: I don’t have a daughter. I don’t have a tattoo, and I don’t know anyone who fought in the Vietnam War. How, then, did I come to write a book so far removed from my real-life experience?

Fortunately, there’s a good story behind this novel, and it begins in India.

A couple of years ago I was on a fellowship to do teacher training in India. It was demanding work, and at the end of my stay, I took a camel safari in Rajasthan, in northern India. To be honest, this isn’t as romantic as it sounds. You sit on a camel, with a guide, and amble along a dusty track under hot sun, stopping now and then at a village for tea. It’s uncomfortable, the camel smells bad. Pretty soon you’re thinking, Hmm—a jeep would’ve been faster. But sitting on a camel all day does give you time to think, and I did.

I was mulling over an earlier novel I’d written. I’d struggled with this story for years trying to make it work. I’d done a ridiculous amount of research, had bankers boxes full of notes, but the thing was like a black hole swallowing everything I threw at it. But this, I knew, was what writing was: mostly just hard work, and if you wanted a story to succeed, you had to stick at it. "Bash on," as my Indian friends would say. So on my holiday in Rajasthan, I’d begun jotting notes for revisions to this novel in a journal I carried with me.

After a few hours riding a camel, though, the mind wanders. Thoughts slip from their moorings, and you drift into that hazy, pleasant state where past and present, near and distant, blur together in an indistinct, vaguely foreign landscape. Soon I wasn’t thinking much about anything.

Late afternoon we arrived at a desert camp. The camel folded its legs and I slid off. A man with a moustache and turban stood waiting on the sand with, improbably, a decanter of whiskey on a silver tray. After dinner and drinks with a retired Indian colonel, I hiked around the dunes. Nothing but sand and desert scrub, as far as you could see; above, the moon and an amazing profusion of stars. It made the camel ride seem worthwhile. Satisfied, I fell asleep on a cot in a tent, the campfire illuminating the canvas walls, and there I dreamed.

I dreamed the whole story. I could see it like a film un-spooling. A daughter steals a car, drives off into the night, and the mother, waiting her return, sits down to write a letter. The farm, the boyfriend in Vietnam, the Catholic boarding school, the visit to the tattoo parlor: it was all there. When I woke the next morning, I lay on the cot, letting the pieces of the story settle into place, and then went out and sat in a camp chair and jotted an outline in my journal. It was this outline that guided me as I worked on the novel over the next year and a half.

The curious thing is that I don’t know anyone quite like Laura, the narrator. She’s not modeled after anyone in real life. Many of her opinions align with mine, true, but her voice and experiences certainly aren’t mine.

So where did Laura come from, then? The Greeks, you know, assigned divinity to this kind of inspiration. They said it was the work of the Muses: Calliope, Thalia, Terpsichore... Myself, I don’t call it divine. Instead, I’m reminded of those stories you read about the discovery of some new chemical equation. The scientist is going about his business, preoccupied with other problems, and while stepping off a city bus, it comes in a flash: the formula is revealed, the equation solved.

A bit like those scientists, I credit my own inspiration to years of tedious work on story drafts, endless revision of sentences, countless nights hunched in front of a computer screen, and, just maybe, a few lucky hours rocking on a camel in the hot Indian sun. --George Bishop

(Photo © Michihito)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:26 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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 begins writing a letter to her daughter that will convey the lessons she learned during her own troubled adolescence in rural Louisiana.… (more)

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