BONUS: This edition contains a Letter to My Daughter discussion guide.
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 remember. Wracked with guilt as she awaits Liz’s return, Laura begins a letter to her daughter, hoping to convey “everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have.” In her painfully candid confession, Laura shares memories of her own troubled adolescence in rural Louisiana, her bittersweet relationship with a boy she loved despite her parents’ disapproval, and a personal tragedy that she can never forget. An absorbing and affirming debut, Letter to My Daughter is a heartwrenching novel of mothers, daughters, and the lessons we all learn when we come of age.
This slight and gauzy novel fails to find anything new in the familiar terrain of mothers and their volatile teenage daughters. After Elizabeth storms out of the house in the wake of an argument on her 15th birthday, her mother, Laura, writes her a letter, endeavoring to tell Liz "the truth about how a girl grows up" by recounting her own adolescence. Laura's high school romance with Tim, a poor Cajun boy, is an act of rebellion against her intolerant parents that resulted in her transfer to a Catholic girls' school. Though Laura's relationship is a source of cruel mirth for her classmates, her correspondence with Tim continues, even as Tim ships off to Vietnam and Laura questions her devotion to her long-distance lover. Bishop's debut may be an interesting exercise in writing from the opposite gender's point of view, but most of the novel's insights into the mother-daughter relationship, and into female adolescence, have been explored innumerable times and in more compelling ways in countless young adult novels.