About Letters to JudMissouri native Don Alderman always regretted not visiting his father for one final goodbye on the morning he left town to begin life on his own. That was in 1956. Only months later, in 1957, his father died, and that goodbye was left unsaid. Now, half a century later, the author makes amends in Letters to Jud, a sensitive, funny and sometimes scary coming-of-age tale of life in a quirky little town at the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.
The narrative is told in two dozen letters to the spirit of the author's father, Jud Alderman, depot agent for the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway Company. The setting is Republic, Missouri in the years just before, during and after World War II. Initially seen through a young boy's eyes, the narrative ends years later when the author returns to his hometown as a grown man and discovers that his father's beloved old depot had vanished, and with it, the last symbol of the family's years in Republic.
Stories related in Letters to Jud are nostalgic, humorous, and bittersweet. "Goodbye" explains why this book was written, and recalls a young man's final glimpse of his father, who stood just inside the railroad depot he managed as the station agent. "The Old Dodge" reveals a young boy's superstitious belief that the untimely malfunctioning of the family car was the work of a ghostly presence. "The Firefly" conveys a youth's sense of wonder and surprise during a sleek new streamliner train's first passage through Republic. "Little Sir Echo" describes the frustrations of being a shy twin brother.
Other letters describe the then-scandalous discovery of a fifth-grade classmate's graceful and surprisingly accurate drawings of naked women; a Halloween attempt to frighten an elderly widow, ending instead in the youthful perpetrators' terrified, headlong flight into the night; a gloomy wartime December 24 that was transformed into a glorious Christmas Eve during a snowy evening walk delivering holiday telegrams; a young boy's face-to-face encounter, on a quiet, small town street, with the President of the United States -- who just happened to be a fellow Missourian named Harry S Truman.
Letters to Jud is an engaging portrait of a classically American small town experience. It is a tale that offers much-needed relief from the coarseness in our culture today; an uplifting antidote to be taken as often as needed.