I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I rarely feel ambivalent about a book, but that’s where I find myself after reading The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak. It is not that the novel about a cook at a Louisiana prison in the early 50s isn’t interesting. It is almost that there was too much going on.
As I read the book, I could not figure out where the author wanted me to focus. On Ginny’s relationship with Roscoe? On her relationship with her mother? Or the backstory of her father? On the inmates? On Ginny and Dot? On Roscoe’s emotions? On the political backdrop of the prison and of Louisiana?
At one point, Ginny thinks about how a certain pork neck stew will be better if it sits for a day, allowing the juices to meld. This story felt like a stew served on the first night. All the aspects were too bright and their flavor edges were too sharp. It needed time to soften into its purpose and design.
I find myself at a loss for how to recommend this book. It was a solid 3-stars for me. I don’t regret reading it, but I don’t think I would buy it for anyone or to have in my own collection. I don’t know to what kind of book club I might suggest this.
In the suggested reader questions at the end of the book, one of them asked if the book changed my mind about the death penalty. It didn’t (already against it), but I was surprised to see that question. There wasn’t enough in the book focused on the act of the state authorized killing then or now to change a mind.
I think this is a book that comes with a dramatic “Your Mileage May Vary”. It may very well be for you. It just wasn’t for me.