The Last Girls by Lee Smith
(Shannon Ravenel Books)

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On a beautiful June day in 1965, a dozen girls-classmates at a picturesque Blue Ridge women's college-launched their homemade raft (inspired by Huck Finn's) on a trip down the Mississippi. It's Girls A-Go-Go Down the Mississippi read the headline in the Paducah, Kentucky, paper.

Thirty-five years later, four of those "girls" reunite to cruise the river again. This time it's on the luxury steamboat, The Belle of Natchez, and there's no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they'll give the river the ashes of a fifth rafter-beautiful Margaret ("Baby") Ballou.

Revered for her powerful female characters, here Lee Smith tells a brilliantly authoritative story of how college pals who grew up in an era when they were still called "girls" have negotiated life as "women." Harriet Holding is a hesitant teacher who has never married (she can't explain why, even to herself). Courtney Gray struggles to step away from her Southern Living-style life. Catherine Wilson, a sculptor, is suffocating in her happy third marriage. Anna Todd is a world-famous romance novelist escaping her own tragedies through her fiction. And finally there is Baby, the girl they come to bury-along with their memories of her rebellions and betrayals.

THE LAST GIRLS is wonderful reading. It's also wonderfully revealing of women's lives-of the idea of romance, of the relevance of past to present, of memory and desire.


About Lee Smith

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Lee Smith was born in Grundy, VA, and lives in North Carolina. She is the author of ten novels and four story collections. She is a winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, and a member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.
Published August 12, 2002 by A Shannon Ravenel Book. 395 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical, History. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The contrasting virtues of Mary McCarthy's The Group and Eudora Welty's elegiac family reunion novel Losing Battles are neatly conjoined in this entertaining 11th from the popular North Carolina author (The Christmas Letters, 1996, etc.).

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Last Girls (Shannon Raven...

Publishers Weekly

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The steamboat setting provides ample opportunities to skewer cruise ship tackiness and Southern kitsch, a witty counterpoint to the often troubled personal stories of the passengers.

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Book Reporter

They are serious and eccentric, they are sassy and romantic, they are 'southern belles' and they are women who have charted their own lives and are still learning to live with their decisions.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Last Girls (Shannon Raven...

Entertainment Weekly

Without question, the title and the plot -- Southern college schoolmates gather 35 years after they've last seen each other to scatter a friend's ashes -- are deeply and cloyingly icky.

Oct 18 2002 | Read Full Review of The Last Girls (Shannon Raven...

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