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Letter to My Daughter: A Novel

Bishop, George

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ISBN 10: 1400116945 / ISBN 13: 9781400116942
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Former library audio book. Will have library markings and stickers and possibly no inserts. Plays perfectly. Bookseller Inventory # 012-5A3G-XXDB

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Title: Letter to My Daughter: A Novel

Binding: No binding

Book Condition:Good

Book Type: audio book

About this title


Dear Elizabeth,

It's early morning and I'm sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you're all right.

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, growing up in an intensely conservative household. She recounts her relationship with a boy she loved despite her parents' disapproval, the fateful events that led to her being sent away to a strict Catholic boarding school, the personal tragedy brought upon her by the Vietnam War, and, finally, the meaning of the enigmatic tattoo below her right hip.

Absorbing and affirming, George Bishop's magnificent debut brilliantly captures a sense of time and place with a distinct and inviting voice. Letter to My Daughter is a heartwrenching novel of mothers, daughters, and the lessons we all learn when we come of age.


George Bishop on Letter to My Daughter

My novel Letter to My Daughter features a middle-aged mother, her 15-year-old daughter, a boy in Vietnam, and a tattoo. Straight off, let me make a confession: I don’t have a daughter. I don’t have a tattoo, and I don’t know anyone who fought in the Vietnam War. How, then, did I come to write a book so far removed from my real-life experience?

Fortunately, there’s a good story behind this novel, and it begins in India.

A couple of years ago I was on a fellowship to do teacher training in India. It was demanding work, and at the end of my stay, I took a camel safari in Rajasthan, in northern India. To be honest, this isn’t as romantic as it sounds. You sit on a camel, with a guide, and amble along a dusty track under hot sun, stopping now and then at a village for tea. It’s uncomfortable, the camel smells bad. Pretty soon you’re thinking, Hmm—a jeep would’ve been faster. But sitting on a camel all day does give you time to think, and I did.

I was mulling over an earlier novel I’d written. I’d struggled with this story for years trying to make it work. I’d done a ridiculous amount of research, had bankers boxes full of notes, but the thing was like a black hole swallowing everything I threw at it. But this, I knew, was what writing was: mostly just hard work, and if you wanted a story to succeed, you had to stick at it. "Bash on," as my Indian friends would say. So on my holiday in Rajasthan, I’d begun jotting notes for revisions to this novel in a journal I carried with me.

After a few hours riding a camel, though, the mind wanders. Thoughts slip from their moorings, and you drift into that hazy, pleasant state where past and present, near and distant, blur together in an indistinct, vaguely foreign landscape. Soon I wasn’t thinking much about anything.

Late afternoon we arrived at a desert camp. The camel folded its legs and I slid off. A man with a moustache and turban stood waiting on the sand with, improbably, a decanter of whiskey on a silver tray. After dinner and drinks with a retired Indian colonel, I hiked around the dunes. Nothing but sand and desert scrub, as far as you could see; above, the moon and an amazing profusion of stars. It made the camel ride seem worthwhile. Satisfied, I fell asleep on a cot in a tent, the campfire illuminating the canvas walls, and there I dreamed.

I dreamed the whole story. I could see it like a film un-spooling. A daughter steals a car, drives off into the night, and the mother, waiting her return, sits down to write a letter. The farm, the boyfriend in Vietnam, the Catholic boarding school, the visit to the tattoo parlor: it was all there. When I woke the next morning, I lay on the cot, letting the pieces of the story settle into place, and then went out and sat in a camp chair and jotted an outline in my journal. It was this outline that guided me as I worked on the novel over the next year and a half.

The curious thing is that I don’t know anyone quite like Laura, the narrator. She’s not modeled after anyone in real life. Many of her opinions align with mine, true, but her voice and experiences certainly aren’t mine.

So where did Laura come from, then? The Greeks, you know, assigned divinity to this kind of inspiration. They said it was the work of the Muses: Calliope, Thalia, Terpsichore... Myself, I don’t call it divine. Instead, I’m reminded of those stories you read about the discovery of some new chemical equation. The scientist is going about his business, preoccupied with other problems, and while stepping off a city bus, it comes in a flash: the formula is revealed, the equation solved.

A bit like those scientists, I credit my own inspiration to years of tedious work on story drafts, endless revision of sentences, countless nights hunched in front of a computer screen, and, just maybe, a few lucky hours rocking on a camel in the hot Indian sun. --George Bishop

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