Set in 1950s Louisiana, Mandy Mikulencak’s beautifully written and emotionally moving novel evokes both The Help and Dead Man Walking with the story of an unforgettable woman whose quest to provide meals for death row prisoners leads her into the secrets of her own past.
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.
About the Author
Mandy Mikulencak has been a writer her entire working life. First, as a journalist then as an editor and PR specialist for two national nonprofits and a United Nations agency. Today she lives in the mountains of Southwest Colorado with her husband, Andy. She writes YA and adult fiction. Her first book, Burn Girl, has been honored with a 2016 Westchester Fiction Award. Readers can visit her website at www.mandymikulencak.com
“[The Last Suppers] is a haunting study of race relations, compassion, and mystery. A must read.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“A serious book, beautifully written, that explores the effect of ruinous family secrets. It’s about race, death and the lives we lead, sometimes against our better judgment… The novel itself is a stew filled with touchstones of our past—like the Ku Klux Klan—that some would rather ignore. The Last Suppers is compelling and very very real.” —The New York Journal of Books
“Raw and heartbreaking, through The Last Suppers we see the personal sacrifice and love of a woman whose life is fraught with pain on her journey to discover the truth of her father’s life and death. Unrestrained in its honesty, this is one novel that will keep you thinking long after the last page is read.” —The Historical Novel Review
“In this novel of compassion, readers will find a humanizing light in a normally dark place.” —Booklist
“The Last Suppers held me riveted from the first page to the last, a gorgeous novel that finds beauty in the most unlikely of places. This story has the social conscience of The Help, the unflinching honesty of The Shawshank Redemption, and a wholly original heroine whose humanity will touch your heart as she cooks her way to redemption.” —Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author