The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Published: Dec. 26, 2017. Kensington
Set in Louisiana in the 1950s, Ginny Polk spent her life growing up beside Greenmount State Penitentiary where her father was the warden. The screams of men being beaten and the visual sight of men being chained together to go work the fields is something that she grew up with. That doesn’t haunt her dreams at night – instead, when Ginny was only eight years she witnessed her first execution. His name was Silas Barnes and he was her daddy’s murderer.
Now, Ginny’s all grown up and works as a cook for the prison where she spent most of her childhood.
Aside from cooking everyday meals for the prisoners, Ginny has taken it upon herself to personally cook the traditional last meals for Greenmount’s death row inmates. Unlike those around her, Ginny does not look upon these men as monsters – but mere human beings who have families and (in her opinion) deserve their favorite meal for their last supper before being taken to the execution chamber.
Pot roast, pork neck stew, potatoes, fruit cake, coconut cake with seven-minute frosting – whatever the inmate desires, Ginny will go out of her way to make sure whatever dish is desired is served perfect. If that means she has to travel out to the inmate’s family home to get the original recipe, and still have enough time to practice it once or twice – she will!
Lots of people question her actions – her mother Miriam, other kitchen staff and even her lover, Warden Roscoe Simms (who use to be her daddy’s best friend). They question her because sometimes, actually most times, she gets too emotionally involved, thus making the whole situation about her and her feelings and not about the inmate. While Ginny struggles on fighting against the prison board who want to stop the tradition of the last meal, truths surrounding her father’s murder begin to arise, shining new light on a devastating truth.
Yes, some people may look the plot and think it’s a tad demented regarding the last meal before execution, but how many novels are out there that actually look in on this darker side of reality that some of the world chooses to turn a blind eye? Overall, I enjoyed this novel – it is filled with emotion, heart break, friendship and love. The plot is unique and it makes the readers think.