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The Last Letter (Letter #1)

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  935 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
Katherine wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t found the letter...

Katherine Arthur's mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was young, the Arthur family had been affluent city dwellers until shame sent them running for the prairie, into the unknown. Taking her family, including young Katherine, to live of
Nook, 372 pages
Published April 27th 2011 by kathleen shoop (first published February 15th 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,227)
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4.5 stars

The Last Letter is a riveting, beautifully written debut novel inspired by letters from the author's great-great grandmother. I literally couldn't put it down but ultimately it's not a feel good story, it's harsh and heart-breaking but it evoked strong emotions and that's a great read in my humble opinion.

Shoop spares no detail depicting the bitter realities of prairie life, the unforgiving landscape and weather, the relentless struggle, the arduous challenges with hygiene and heating,
Oct 13, 2013 Ladory rated it did not like it
This book drove me a little crazy. I read the whole thing because I wanted to find out why Katherine was so mad at her mother, which is never revealed until the end, of course. I also wanted to know what life was like on the South Dakota prairie as it was first being settled. I have never read much on that. I study my family history/genealogy and have become very interested in settlers' life in the U.S. However, this book was extremely tedious and repetitive. The author really needs a good profe ...more
May 16, 2011 Readingcureall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-can-lend
This book was so good. It broke your heart, made you believe in the human spirit, and a families love. There were so many twists and turns I could not put it down and stayed up way to late as I was lost in it. The imagery the author uses takes you right back through time to make you feel as though you have traveled through time and are actually there with the characters. You feel their pain, their anger, their love, their losses and their gains. Very well done.
Dec 25, 2013 Kelly rated it it was ok
This was a kindle daily deal under historical fiction for $2.99. Based on the good reviews here I snapped it up, but didn't really enjoy it.

The story involves two main characters: Katherine writing in the early 1900s and her mother Jeanie, telling a story 30-40 years earlier. When Jeanie and her husband Frank experience difficulties they move to the prairie to homestead. This is followed by a series of disasters, as told by Jeanie. All we know is that Katherine hates Jeanie in the present. The m
N. Sasson
Jul 18, 2011 N. Sasson rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books I couldn't wait to get back to each time I had to take a break from reading. Jeanie Arthur is a proud woman who has been forced to abandon a successful and comfortable life in Des Moines to start over in the Dakotas. Unfortunately, her husband Frank is more of a dreamer than a doer and Jeanie's frustrations mount as he repeatedly fails to be the reliable foundation that she so much needs in an unforgiving environment. The tragedies that afflict this family are pal ...more
May 22, 2011 Staci marked it as to-read
Recommended to Staci by: Kathllen Shoop
My Thoughts:
I was immediately drawn into this story and couldn't stop thinking about it until I turned the very last satisfying page. There were a few things that surprised me while reading this one.

I've been blown away by debut books this year....literally blown away and this one is no exception!
There is no way that I could've survived out in the prairie. My hats off to all of the pioneer men and women who braved the elements and were able to carve out a life for themselves in this harsh and
Apr 21, 2013 Marisa rated it it was ok
I thought this book was a fair read but it seemed to me that the authors language did not fit the time period. I also felt that some of the characters in the story were not explained well enough to really understand and know them.
Sharon Martin
What a book and what an absolute impact it had on me. A very moving and emotional read and I loved every minute of this wonderful and powerful story. This is the very first book I have read by Kathleen Shoop, I have read so many positive reviews on her writing skills that I really wanted to read one of her books and after reading the description I knew this was the one. This story had me hooked, took hold of me and transported me into the story and into the prairie life. I felt all the emotions ...more
Lilac Wolf
May 04, 2011 Lilac Wolf rated it it was amazing
What a great book! Seriously, go get a copy and read it. Shoot it's only 99cents as an e-book!

This story is AWESOME. Let's start at the beginning, the cover is very simple, with the young girl in a simple white dress on the prairie. The story itself has excellent flow and the words are woven so that I would at times forget I was reading and just see the story move through me.

There are 2 main characters in this book. Katherine, the daughter and Jeanie, her mother. It starts in Des Moines, Iowa in
After reading all the raving reviews about this book, I really thought I would enjoy it. The book is loosely based on the author's great great grandparents and the letters they wrote back and forth. It is set in the 1800's and talks of the horrible way of prairie life.

Jeannie and Frank have to move. They can no longer be the upstanding socialites of Des Moines after what Frank and Daddy did. They decide to give homesteading a go. Tragedy after tragedy leads these characters down depressing road
May 22, 2011 Staci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Staci by: Author
Shelves: 2011-reads
My Thoughts:
I was immediately drawn into this story and couldn't stop thinking about it until I turned the very last satisfying page. There were a few things that surprised me while reading this one.

I've been blown away by debut books this year....literally blown away and this one is no exception!
There is no way that I could've survived out in the prairie. My hats off to all of the pioneer men and women who braved the elements and were able to carve out a life for themselves in this harsh and
Lisa Ryan
Jun 20, 2011 Lisa Ryan rated it it was amazing
I was immediately excited about this book since I grew up with Little House on the Prairie. Although that was a tv show, living on the prairie wasn't so much fun. In fact, throughout the whole book, I can feel the pain and hardship with each page. I couldn't even imagine living in those days. The author did an outstanding job describing the harshness and darkness of prairie it could change in an instant. Destroying but then comforting.

Plus I just couldn't put the book down once I sta
Caddy Rowland
Jul 03, 2014 Caddy Rowland rated it really liked it
This was a solid story that kept my attention. I like to read about life on the prairie even though I'd hate to live like that. Definitely wouldn't have been one of the pioneers! Momma Jeanie and Katherine both appealed to me and I felt them come alive for me quickly. Jeanie's husband was a real piece of work. I felt sorry for her that she felt the need to put up with him.

The book surprised me in regard to what her husband did and what Jeanne in turn decided to do about Yale. Nice to be surpris
Aug 23, 2012 Jenn rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. A book about a strong woman who loved her children with all her heart, what a terrible turn her life took soo many different times. I don't understand all the choices she made but after all she had been through I'm not sure any of us could truly understand - I could not put this book down - got it CHEAP on my Nook - GREAT read, plesant surprise for the price!
Ruth Hill
Jul 08, 2014 Ruth Hill rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-books, 2014-reads
First of all, this is a realistic historical fiction book, and I do wish to prepare anyone who tackles this book for plenty of tragedy. All too often, we glamorize the pioneer days. We think that every family somehow made it through the struggles with flying colors. Money may have been tight, but everything worked out like a "Little House on the Prairie" episode. History tells us that was not the case. Tragedy was always lurking closely to every family on the frontier just waiting to strike. Yes ...more
Shari Larsen
Jul 22, 2011 Shari Larsen rated it it was amazing
Katherine had been estranged from her mother Jeanie Arthur, for 17 years, until the day her mother showed up on her doorstep, with her Kathrine's younger sister Yale, dying from cancer. Katherine is forced to relive and examine her past, the year they lived on the harsh prairie after the Arthur family had to leave Des Moines, Iowa, after a family scandal.

Jeanie tried her best to make a go of it, but betrayals, natural disasters, and death tore the family apart. Katherine blamed her mother for wh
This pioneer saga won the 2011 IPPY Award. Jeanne is a mother and writer of books on homemaking. Suddenly her family is disgraced through no fault of her own and her husband decides to seek anonymity and a new start in the Dakota territories. They live in an underground cave made of sod and suffer catastrophe, betrayal and death in the months to follow. Their few neighbors joined them in a co-op in hopes of sharing their individual talents and burdens to ensure survival of the whole, but nothing ...more
Karen Hogan
Jun 05, 2013 Karen Hogan rated it it was amazing
All I can say is "Wow". Dont read this book if you're looking for something light-hearted. Do read this book if you want an emotional roller coaster ride. This is an amazing piece of historical fiction, supposedly based on the homesteading letters of the author's ancestor. Well, they say truth is stranger than fiction, and this work is a perfect example of that. Imagine being a well off, wife and mother, who through the fault of her opium eating father and worthless husband, finds herself destit ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Gaile rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19th-century, pioneer
Frank and Jeanie Arthur try to settle on the plains in Dakota Territory after losing their property in Des Moines. Jeanie hates the soddie they are forced to live in. She also is pregnant and no longer in love with her husband who spends more time away than at home.
This is a character raised in the lap of luxury who is now trying to make a go of it in hard circumstances. Although she had neighbors to help they too suffer the disasters of the plains. jeanie is a character who alternates between
Dec 01, 2011 Mindy rated it really liked it
This book started out a little slow for me, it is a bit confusing in the beginning trying to follow the story. But once I got into it I couldn't put it down(it had a little mystery that I couldn't quite figure out)! Because of the setting of the 1800's in the Dakota Territory, there is lots of callamities. I am not sure I would have had the strength to live that life, it was a very difficult. I found myself questioning how much of who we are is actually because of our personality and how much of ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
I almost gave this book five stars, settled on four, but could easily have been five, though four is a very good.

I really did enjoy. I'm a historical fiction lover, mainly because I can read fiction under the pretense of maybe learning something. This book depicts the extreme conditions and hardships of prairie life in the late 1800s, including the "School Children's Blizzard" of 1888. But more than that, it's the story of the complexities of the mother/ daughter relationship, as well as the mis
Sep 22, 2011 Kian rated it it was amazing
I read this book in one sitting. I was inlove with most of the characters and loved hating a few. I laughed, I cried, and the way the author gave such details I could almost feel the winter breezes. I was so sad to see this book end. I would love to see what happens next. The side story of the mother and daughter finding peace before it is too late just added to the drama. The tough choices this mother had to make through out this book are so heart breaking. The move from the city to the pionee ...more
Mary Bearden
Jul 29, 2014 Mary Bearden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book has it all! And for it to have happened why back in the 1800 and 1900's is both riveting and shocking considering all that happened to this family. I guess you tend to forget that drugs have always been available and that men have always tended to have affairs when married, so I guess it shouldn't have shocked me, but it did.

I think what struck me the most was how Jeanie was able to pull herself together through all of it and never let on to anyone, especially her children how d
Jul 20, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Every time I think I have read the best book by Kathleen Shoop, I read another one and am happily surprised. Her writing seems to just keep getting better. Her stories never fail to draw me in and make me lose myself for a while.

This book is, so far, my favorite of her books. The characters are so well written that you feel like you could just cross the street and sit with them for a bit. I really came to care for Jeanie and her family while reading this engaging story.

The only thing I didn't l
Tracy Carter
Jul 11, 2014 Tracy Carter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kathleen Shoop does a wonderful job describing life on the prairie in this story of historical fiction. Many authors romanticize the life that pioneers led, but actual history shows us the true hardships they endured on the prairie.

The story pivots back and forth in time, from 1888 ~ Dakota Territory and 1905 ~ Des Moines, Iowa … from Jeanie’s point of view and Katherine’s … mother and daughter. The Arthur family led a high society, privileged life until a scandal sent them to head for the hills
Sonya Neal
Jul 10, 2014 Sonya Neal rated it it was amazing
This book is one of my new favorites! First off, it reminds me so much of Little House on the Prairie (which was a favorite of mine in my youth), but it's from the mom's perspective and the mom does NOT want to be there. She's struggling to keep her family alive and sane on the prairie, with all of the horrific problems that come with it. It's definitely a new perspective on stories that I've read before!

This book is split up into two stories, the past (on the prairie, when Katherine was young)
Elizabeth Towns
Jul 04, 2014 Elizabeth Towns rated it it was amazing
I was so completely engrossed in this book that I re-read parts of it because they were so poignant, so heart wrenching, so raw. At times I was empathetic with Jeanie Arthur, whose only crime was that she loved her father and husband, Frank, too nobly, and believed in the noblesse oblige of her sheltered life too deeply. So much so that when it was raped away from her by the drug abuse and economical disaster of those times her own demise, though she put up a giants fight, was inevitable.

Each on
Jun 27, 2014 Becca rated it it was amazing
I really liked, well even loved, this book. Historical settings are a weakness of mine. I liked that the cover was simple and elegant. A great cover can sometimes make you want to read the book even more. The story that the author tells is put together very well and flowed with an easiness so that I did not have to go back and re-read. Major points earner in my review book! The story was so fluent that I was able to read this rather quickly. I was saddened that it was already over when I did get ...more
Jun 25, 2014 Danelle rated it really liked it
Have you ever wondered what the worst of the worst could be for families that braved prairie life back in the 1800′s? Kathleen Shoop describes just that in a horrifying very real way. There were many things to be afraid of back then, drought, debilitating snowstorms, crop failure, etc, etc. But what happens when the fear of being under your own roof is the worst of them all? What if you were the one desperately trying to hide these horrible secrets from everyone, including other in the home-just ...more
Ashley Dawn
Jun 23, 2014 Ashley Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderfully surprising book. Katherine resents her mother. Jeanie is Katherine's mother and she didn't want to take her family from the high life to the prairie. Still she does it because she must. Though her husband Frank is a lazy and not at all what she needs, Jeanie is determined to make her marriage work. Through letters, Katherine learns why her mother made the decisions she did for all of them, and maybe she can work past her anger at the woman she thought she knew.
I honestly w
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Women of the 1800s 2 8 Apr 19, 2013 01:00PM  
Reading comprehension & difficult circumstances 1 1 Aug 13, 2012 05:10PM  
Compare and Contrast 1 2 Aug 13, 2012 05:06PM  
Shame 1 4 Aug 13, 2012 05:03PM  
Strong Women in History 1 1 Aug 13, 2012 05:02PM  
Homesteading vs. modern times 1 2 Aug 13, 2012 04:58PM  
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Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathl ...more
More about Kathleen Shoop...

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