The Last Suppers is a captivating novel set in a Louisiana penitentiary where Ginny, young daughter of a murdered prison guard, is now all grown up and cooking for the inmates at the jail. She meets with the prisoners on death row to find out what they want for their last meal and does her best to create the requested dishes. The drama began two decades prior, when her father was killed and his supposed murderer was put to death while she and her mother were present. Her dad’s best friend, Roscoe promised to take care of Ginny and her mother, and now, Ginny and Roscoe, currently the jail warden, work together and are a couple, intimately involved. Despite the age difference, their comfortable routine has been beneficial to both of them over the years but things change when Ginny learns more about the man who paid the price for her father’s murder.
Author Mandy Mikulencak had me hooked from the beginning. Ginny is kind and compassionate and a little naive, yet she is strong and willful as she searches for the truth about her father and Roscoe, and passionate and fair when she connects with the prisoners, putting aside their crimes to learn what they want to eat. This story brings to light the food – emotion connection, and how last supper requests are often tied to prisoner’s comforting memories and not about hunger and eating. We see Ginny’s love and respect through her cooking and full recipes of some of the meals are included at the end. This book takes place in the 1950s and with rich characters and a gripping story, The Last Suppers highlights inequality and racism, the rights and treatment of inmates, love, loss, sacrifice and acceptance. I enjoyed this work of fiction and highly recommend it.
As seen on Goodreads:
Many children have grown up in the shadow of Louisiana’s Greenmount State Penitentiary. Most of them—sons and daughters of corrections officers and staff—left the place as soon as they could. Yet Ginny Polk chose to come back to work as a prison cook. She knows the harsh reality of life within those walls—the cries of men being beaten, the lines of shuffling inmates chained together. Yet she has never seen them as monsters, not even the ones sentenced to execution. That’s why, among her duties, Ginny has taken on a special responsibility: preparing their last meals.
Pot roast or red beans and rice, coconut cake with seven-minute frosting or pork neck stew . . . whatever the men ask for Ginny prepares, even meeting with their heartbroken relatives to get each recipe just right. It’s her way of honoring their humanity, showing some compassion in their final hours. The prison board frowns upon the ritual, as does Roscoe Simms, Greenmount’s Warden. Her daddy’s best friend before he was murdered, Roscoe has always watched out for Ginny, and their friendship has evolved into something deep and unexpected. But when Ginny stumbles upon information about the man executed for killing her father, it leads to a series of dark and painful revelations.
Truth, justice, mercy—none of these are as simple as Ginny once believed. And the most shocking crimes may not be the ones committed out of anger or greed, but the sacrifices we make for love.
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