Book Review: Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

Title: Letter to My Daughter
Author: George Bishop
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC for a TLC Book Tour
First line: Dear Elizabeth, How to begin this?

Laura and her daughter, Elizabeth, have a huge fight the night before Elizabeth’s fifteenth birthday. When Elizabeth storms out of the house and doesn’t return for hours, Laura sits down to write her a letter, telling her the story of her own stormy adolescence, a story of forbidden love, estrangement from her parents, war, and overwhelming grief.

In Letter to My Daughter, George Bishop has done an amazing job of capturing the turmoil that is female adolescence, as well as the fear a mother experiences when her own daughter is becoming a woman. I was very surprised that a male author could so perfectly write about the relationship between a mother and daughter, as well as the feelings that flood a teenage girl the first time she falls in love.

Laura is terrified by the thought that she is losing her daughter. She’s witnessed the change from pigtails and tights to black lipstick and piercings, and, like any mother would, wonders if these outward signs are the result of an inner trauma, something that Elizabeth hasn’t felt free to share with her mother. In an effort to show her daughter that she truly does understand what it is like to be fifteen, she writes down the story of her own first love.

At age fifteen, Laura fell in love with Tim, a young man three years her senior. Her bigoted parents didn’t like the fact that he was Cajun, and sent Laura to a Catholic boarding school in an attempt to separate the two. Laura struggled to fit in as a charity case in a school full of upper class students while Tim enlisted in the Army so he could afford to provide for Laura when she graduated. He was shipped off to Vietnam, and the two tried to maintain their relationship through the mail, in spite of the fact that they were both undergoing major changes that made them almost strangers to each other.

As a mother who has confessed her own romantic history and mistakes to her teenage daughter, I felt for Laura and understood why she wanted to tell her story to Elizabeth. I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions she came to on the subject of premarital and/or adolescent sex, but as I read I found myself applauding her willingness to be completely honest with her daughter. As parents, how can we expect our teens to trust us with their secrets if we live, talk, and act as if we were never teenagers ourselves? It’s no wonder they hide the details of their lives from us – they really don’t think we could even begin to understand.

In this slim novel, Bishop has written a very human story that deals not only with the mother-daughter relationship, but the horrors and realities of war and how it changes the men and women involved, both the ones who serve and the ones who are left behind. I would have liked more of Laura’s story, but the design of the novel – as a letter written over a day or so – didn’t allow for that, and I did think the format worked for the story Bishop wanted to tell. Recommended.

(An ARC of Letter to My Daughter was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it for this blog tour. The above link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)

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21 Responses to Book Review: Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

  1. I really liked this book and thought Bishop did a great job capturing Laura’s voice.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This sounds like a book I would adore. Off to see if my library has it!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..The Sunday Salon =-.

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I’m impressed that this would be written by a man, although I can attest that fathers see what the mothers and daughters go through and feel the loss of control just as much. I am afraid this book would reduce me to a big, puddly mess. I pray for strength and patience every day when it comes to my daughter. And my road has hardly begun.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Smile – Raina Telgemeir =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I know what you mean – our daughters are close in age. :) I actually didn’t cry as much as I thought I would while reading this, but it was an emotional read.

  4. Kathleen says:

    This sounds really touching. I have a son so I can’t relate to it with my own child but as the daughter of my mother I can remember some times when the relationship was conflicted.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – Do you find your relationship with your son less conflicted that a relationship with a daughter? I have one girl and three boys and am wondering how they will compare while going through puberty.

      • Kathleen says:

        Hi Carrie,
        I’ve never had a daughter but based on my friends’ experience it seems that mother/daughter relationships seem to be more conflicted than mother/son. Sons seem to be more likely to have conflict with their fathers.

        • CarrieK
          Twitter: booksandmovies
          says:

          Kathleen – Oh, man – maybe I should step up my prayers for my husband!

  5. Pingback: George Bishop, author of Letter to My Daughter, on tour May 2010 | TLC Book Tours

  6. lisamm says:

    What a wonderful review. As a mother of daughters, this sounds like one I’d love (albeit with a box of tissues nearby!) Thanks so much for being on the tour, Carrie. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book.
    .-= lisamm´s last blog ..DEAD END GENE POOL Discussion with author Wendy Burden! =-.

  7. Anna says:

    I liked this one so much more than I expected I would. I knew I’d like it, but I didn’t realize it would affect me so much.

    We’ll get this posted on War Through the Generations soon.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman =-.

  8. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » May Reading Wrap-up

  9. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » June Shelf-Cleaning Giveaway

  10. Anna says:

    We posted your review here on War Through the Generations.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Review- Eva’s Cousin by Sibylle Knauss =-.

  11. Pingback: Book Review: Letter to my Daughter « ReviewsbyLola's Blog