Families and Choices

UPDATE:  I know most of you are probably getting tired of the word “update”, but this is not frightening or medical in nature.  As all of you know our new library is on lock down and it may seem silly to have monthly book reviews.  It is not though.  Many of you read books electronically so this gives you a bit of a heads up to look forward to reading.  Listening to an audiobook version can always prove an interesting experience.  All the books reviewed will be available when we are finally free to walk through the doors of our beloved library here at Tanglewood.  Wishing you all happy reading and may this find you in good spirits and healthy.  Kristie

If you enjoy Southern fiction, you will most likely enjoy The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt (2019) by Andrea Bobotis.  It has sibling rivalry, family secrets, history, murder…you get the idea.

As you enter the once booming cotton town of Bound SC you will get to know Miss Judith Kratt, who tells her story, along with her younger brother Quincy, and baby sister Rosemarie.  Of course, Daddy Kratt, Mama, Olva, and a host of the town’s locals are all part of the story.

The Kratt family’s narrative opens in May, 1989 and flashes back to events in 1929 that prove to be eventful in many ways.  The reader learns Judith is contemplating creating an inventory of the family’s heirlooms.  Sitting in the sunroom Miss Judith shares her thoughts with Olva who is very familiar with the Kratt family members.  More than anyone, Judith felt Olva “should understand the necessity of chronicling our family’s history”.

A postcard has arrived from her sister Rosemarie, who has been gone for 60 years.  The message   simply states, “Sister, I’m coming home.”  Judith begins her inventory.

As the reader, you will begin piecing the story of the Kratt family together.  Brayburn Kratt, called Daddy Kratt by family members, owned the local cotton gin when cotton was king.  His business grew and grew.  He opened the Kratt Mercantile Store in 1913.  He could easily be described as any one or all the following…greedy, cruel, insensitive, and abusive.

The scent of rosewater is often mention when Mama is remembered.  But she has her part to play in this drama and lives are connected to her.

Quincy, as you find out on the opening page of this southern tale, was killed when he was 14-years-old.  Even though he died young, his presence plays an important role. He was always trying to win his father’s approval and did so by becoming his father’s spy.

Rosemarie left home when she was 13.  When she returns 60 years later problems walk in the door with her.  She does not have a clue about events that occurred in her absence and accuses Judith of murdering Quincy.

Olva, her son Marcus and granddaughter Amaryllis are all close to Miss Judith.  Cannot forget Charlie Watson, who is suspected of killing Quincy.  Of course, assorted town locals who wander in and out the storyline, all help make up this tale of love, murder, and family a good read.  And, do NOT overlook the heirlooms.  Judith’s list grows by the end of the novel.  Each and every piece on the list has its own story to tell.

I found The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt a good blend of history and storytelling.  It could be described as a sad story but not a tearjerker.   Just a story of a family’s secrets that came to light 60 years later.

Reading Beneath a Scarlett Sky (2017) by Mark Sullivan will take you to Italy during WWII where you will meet another family who also kept secrets between June 1943 and May 1945.  Their secrets saved the lives of many innocent people.

You might just be a little overwhelmed when you first glimpse Beneath a Scarlett Sky with its bright red cover and the number of pages held within that cover.  I know I was.  Fear not.  Once you begin to read, the surprise will be just how quickly the pages turn.  Again, I was too.

This historical/biographical/fictionalized account is set in Italy during WWII. Besides being the selection of the book group, I was interested because my dad was a paratrooper at the landing of Anzio.  Once I began reading, it was difficult to put down.  Most everyone in the book group felt the same.

Beneath a Scarlett Sky follows Pino Lella for about two years.  Pino is a typical 17-year-old boy, interested in the same most kids of that age want to do.  That is until the Nazi’s began bombing his hometown of Milan.

Leaving their home was becoming more dangerous day by day.  Daily life was changing for the Lella family.  Pino’s parents think it is best for him and his younger brother Mimo to stay over at Father Re’s camp located at Lake Como in the Alps.  It was a place the boys loved when they were younger.  Pino reluctantly agreed to join Mimo who had gone ahead before the shelling of Milan had grown worse.

Pino was met at the train station by Albert Ascari.  Pino got the ride of his life in that Fiat.  Ascari promised he would teach Pino how to drive.  Pino offered to teach Alberto to ski.  A lifelong friendship was sealed that day.

Father Re has plans for Pino that begins the first morning at Casa Alpino.  Father hands him a map and specific directions to follow.  The priest’s plan was to make Pino strong.  “You may need to be in the months ahead.”  What Pino did not know at the time was the plan was for Pino lead Italian Jews across the Alps to Switzerland.

Because he was turning 18 and could be drafted, his family insisted he sign up so he would not get sent to the front lines. Pino ends up being a driver for the high-ranking Nazi General Leyers.  As the general’s driver Pino learns much about the movement and plans of the Nazis.  He reports his observations to his father and uncle.

Pinot could not tell anyone what he was doing including his brother Mino.  His friends thought he was a Nazi and turned against him.  His heart ached by what he was experiencing and those he was losing.

I may not have read Beneath a Scarlett Sky had it not been a monthly choice of the book group here at Tanglewood.  I am glad someone had chosen this book.  It is a very readable account of a very real man, Pino Lella, his family, and his life in Italy during the Nazi reign.  Yes, Pino’s life and times have been somewhat fictionalized in the book and it would probably make for a good movie.  But Pino was a real person.  Be sure to read the Preface, the Aftermath, and the Acknowledgements.  For that matter Google Pino Lella for even more information.

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