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The Last Girls by Lee Smith

The Last Girls (2002)

by Lee Smith

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I kept waiting to connect these ladies together, or at the very least to get to know Baby through their memories. but only Harriet talked about Baby and even she wasn't given a strong enough narrative for me to feel there was some insight into their younger lives. and all the others angsting over their first world problems just kept happening in their individual silos. my last hope was for the letter and the memorial and that too was terribly disappointing with still no connection between the last girls or any real revelation. finally, how awful it was not to know if Courtney changed her mind or if Harriet stayed the weekend in New Orleans. Baby should have at least been honored for impacting their lives with her passing. bummer all around. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
Because I am going to hear Lee Smith speak next week, I read her excellent memoir, Dimestore, and thought I'd like to read one of her novels before going to hear her. One of the essays in her memoir has to do with the trip she made as a college girl with 13 Hollins friends on a raft down the Mississippi in 1966, and how this novel came from that group, that time.So I chose The Last Girls to read and enjoyed it very much. Unlike other reviewers, I liked all the characters, and the Southern setting, the times - those of my own youth and aging - the friendships with their ups and downs. Another thing I especially enjoyed was the description of the Mississippi River Boat tour itself. I was torn between giving the book three and a half stars or four, because as novels go, it wasn't that outstanding, notice other reviewers gave it every category star there is! But because of all these factors personal to me, I found it to be a really good read just now, so I'm going with four stars. I'm very glad to have read the book. ( )
  MarthaHuntley | Apr 25, 2016 |
The Stichting Overal in Nijmegen cleared out some shelves. I received part of the books from hema-verf in a book box in Castricum. Thanks!
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
“Every true story ends terribly, if you follow it far enough….”
Four women head off to recreate a trip down the Mississippi they first took many years ago when they were girls in college. The four gather at the behest of the husband of Baby, one of the original group of girls, a girl who had a strong influence on the lives of all the women, and who has just died unexpectedly in a tragic accident.

The four quirky women, the Last Girls of the title, Southerners one and all, use the trip to reminisce about the past, to contemplate the accomplishments and regrets of their lives, and to offer sympathy and support for each other.

Better-than-average Baby-Boomer women’s fiction, with strong characters and strong writing. Be warned that the others in my bookgroup complained about the way in which the story abruptly jumps from character to character and from the past to the present. ( )
  debnance | Jul 7, 2012 |
I have one word for you: shocker! Like I said, I did NOT have high expectations for this book! Boy was I WRONG. This is now one of my favorite books ever! Lets start off with the characters, Ms. Lee Smith, I commend you, boy do you know how to right a strong female character! All of the characters I could distinctly connect with and feel exactly what they were feeling. I have to say my favorite characters were Baby and Anna. Smith writes her characters so strongly, I was intoxicated by the presence of Baby, just like the other characters were. If I had a girl crush, it'd be on Baby. She was one of those feisty characters who seemed like they had the perfect "whatever" attitude and didn't give a crap what anyone else said, yet she had feelings too. You could feel her pain and happiness, and even I, the reader, could feel her electricity. And then there's Anna, the used-to-be aspiring writer, now gone big time. She had confidence and felt beautiful and sexy, the way every girl wants to feel. But the characters weren't the only parts I loved, I also loved the whole concept of the story, and the beautiful way Smith told it. When smith delved into the characters past, you could feel their pain and happiness, I was laughing and crying along with them. ANd even though there was no love interest at first, it was AMAZING when the guy first came in! Again, you could feel the characters' grief and happiness as they went through the ups and downs of a relationship. This book is BEAUTIFUL. It's all about love, friendship, confidence, everything that matters in life! ( )
  amwo | Jul 30, 2011 |
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Lee Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gommers, KarienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sometimes life is more like a river than a book. -Cort Conley
This book is for my beloved husband, Hal-pilot, shipmate, and running buddy on the continuing journey...and for Jane and Verren Bell, who went down the rivr with us in the summer of 1999.
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Harriet thinks it was William Faulkner who said that the Mississippi begins in the lobby of the Peabody hotel.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
On a beautiful June day in 1965, a dozen girls -c lassmates 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 A GIRLS GO-GO DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI reads 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 a luxury steamboat. 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, Lee Smith tells a brilliantly perceptive 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 escape her Southern Living Lifestyle. 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345464958, Paperback)

In the brisk and readable The Last Girls, acclaimed Southern writer Lee Smith reunites four college suitemates on a boat tour of the mighty Mississippi. Thirty-five years before, inspired by reading Twain's Huckleberry Finn in class (a detail not nearly revisited enough), the women floated down the same river on a manmade raft; now they are gathered at the request of their recently deceased ringleader's husband. The story unfolds through the eyes of each woman as the old friends weave college memories with their own dramas spanning the three decades since graduation. Harriet, Courtney, Catherine, and Anna come through muddily compared to their dead friend Baby. Even in death, Baby, a Sylvia Plath-like creature with voracious appetites for poetry, self-mutilation, and sex, nearly overwhelms her more reticent friends with past behaviors better suited to a mental institution than a dorm room. As the tour boat bobs along in the wake of these women's emotional crises, Smith offers up the contemporary female life experience, fivefold. At its heart, this is a book about how we never quite outgrow the past, even after plenty of chances to do otherwise. --Emily Russin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:15 -0400)

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Thirty-five years after a trip down the Mississippi on a raft with their classmates, four women are reunited to cruise the river once again where they plan to release the ashes of a fellow rafter, Margaret "Baby" Ballou.

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