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My Last Continent: A Novel by Midge Raymond

My Last Continent: A Novel (2016)

by Midge Raymond

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Deb Gardner feels at home when she's at the end of the world. She does her research on the penguins that live there and enjoys the solitude the continent has to offer. Then one day Deb finds her world shifting like the icebergs around her when she meets Keller Sullivan, a dishwasher eager to learn all he can about the penguins Deb is studying. Soon they're spending as much time together as they can before returning to their separate lives up North.

With a new research season beginning Deb will be travelling and playing tour guide to the passengers on board the small ship that will take them to their destination. Deb can hardly wait to see Keller again, but he never shows up. Shortly into the journey, Deb learns that Keller is on board the Australis, a massive cruise liner that she can see not far off in the distance from the ship she's on. Deb knows that cruise liner shouldn't be coming this way, and soon the ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis - they're in desperate need of help. Deb sets out helping as many people as she can all the while searching for the man she loves.

Oh my God. This book is perfect. The beautiful, descriptive writing makes everything come to life. You really feel as though you're in Antarctica watching those cute penguins and then scrambling around trying to get to safety and help those who need it. It was intense. But it was refreshing to travel someplace different. It's a book that made me think about our impact on the environment and how our choices can be so life-altering. An amazing book. Definitely have tissues handy. ( )
  jenn88 | Apr 25, 2017 |
this was quite the atmospheric read! the antarctic setting is a prominent character unto itself, and i loved that (something i, generally, favour in my fiction - setting as a character). the novel felt helpfully informative around the issues of ecotourism and penguins, though at moments the story did teeter a bit too much into feeling like a screed. (and this coming from someone who took environmental studies at university, so...) i mean, i get it - there are such important issues in play for the world. but at times it became distracting/way too noticeable, instead of flowing more appropriately during the fictional tale. (if this makes sense? i hope it does.)

the book is structured in such a way that there is no secret where everything is going. raymond is good at building the anticipation though. the novel jumps around in time with each chapter, so if you prefer linear storytelling, this may not work too well for you. this worked mostly well for me, though i did spend time wondering about other ways this could have been presented. the novel is 1st-person from deb's POV, and i did think it could have been cool to alternate with Keller's POV, for example. (i don't mind non-linear stories at all.) one plot point that came later in the book felt a bit awkward to me, and was never really addressed at all once it was told. i didn't feel raymond to be quite so strong with dialogue - this aspect of the novel was a bit inconsistent for me. my last little quibble: i found the very ending too tidy and sentimental.

i like reading to the time of year. here in my little part of canada, we are in a brief deep freeze with lots of snow. nothing at all antarctic-like, but i enjoyed being surrounded by cold and snow, while reading about ice and hypothermia. call me a whackadoodle... but there it is. raymond has written a reasonably solid debut novel, despite the things i was noticing as i read along, and mentioned above. i was engaged with the story and invested in the characters, and in love with the setting. ( )
  Booktrovert | Dec 15, 2016 |
Deb Gardner meets Keller Sullivan on a flight to an Antarctic cruise ship where she is a penguin expert and he will wash dishes. Over several seasons, a romance develops between the two cemented by their mutual love for the continent and the flightless black and white birds that live there.

My Last Continent by author Midge Raymond begins with Gardner trying to teach a group of eco-tourists in Antarctica about penguins. However, they are only interested in her knowledge of the tragic sinking of a cruise ship, The Australis. The story then moves back in time to before this event but leading up to it. We learn the backstory of both our protagonists including how their fascination with the Antarctic and penguins developed, their romance, and the difficulties of maintaining this relationship when they are apart. Raymond also draws a deeply moving and beautiful portrait of the continent itself which is as much a character here as Deb and Keller.

As I was readingother reviews of this novel, I encountered a new word – eco-romance. I have, in past reviews, mentioned my dislike for romance novels but I may have to eat my words at least in the case of eco-romances if they are as well-written and interesting as this one - although admittedly, I found the descriptions of the continent, the different penguins, the shipwreck and the rescue efforts much more romantic than the actual love story.

I was also impressed by Raymond’s subtle criticism of eco-tourism in fragile ecosystems. I don’t know how accurate Raymond’s descriptions are but they had an impact beyond the book at least for me– on the one hand, her portrait of the continent was so vivid I thought it would be marvelous to see it all for myself while taking to heart her warnings about how, while this type of eco-tourism is well-meant, it is having a detrimental effect on the continent and on the wildlife and is just adding to the devastation of climate change.

So my recommendation – whether you like traditional romance novels or if you love stories about unique and romantic places, My Last Continent wins on both fronts.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Scribner for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review ( )
  lostinalibrary | Sep 17, 2016 |
Raymond's writing is wonderful and her descriptions of Antarctica and it's inhabitants seem visual to me. She seems to have a breadth of knowledge of the region and the environment and dangers of global warming.
A man and a woman meet there on a mission to study penguins. The book has alternating chapters with Deb (main character) talking in the present and letting us in on her thoughts and feelings. The other chapters portray the development of Deb and Keller upon first meeting. The time period spanned is 3 years. The first chapter is titled "One Week Before Shipwreck" so we know there is tragedy looming as it concerns another ship in the same general area. Not too long into the book Deb discovers that Keller is on that ship. She was expecting him to be on the same mission again but he was not. Other characters (boat passengers/crew mostly) are part of the story and Raymond has developed complex characters with them, as well as Deb and Keller. Deb and Keller are portrayed as loners who have found a home in Antarica for a few months every year. The book lovingly shows their personal growth as they also grew in their understanding and love for each other. ( )
  bogopea | Sep 10, 2016 |
Love & Loss at the End of the World....

Words really can't express how much I enjoyed this book! It was a wonderful story about love, loss, grief and finding your way in life. It was such a beautiful but heart-wrenching story. All of the characters were so well-developed that you couldn't help but become attached to them and their outcome. I loved learning about the continent of Antarctica and also about the penguins and their plight. The imagery and the atmosphere that the author evoked was really what made the story come to life for me. Sometimes I felt like I was right there on the Antarctic peninsula with them. I was so engrossed in the story that I stayed up all night and read it in one sitting so if you have any interest in Antarctica or penguins or just enjoy a good story about life in general then don't pass up this book!
*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Scribner in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

( )
  EmpressReece | Aug 22, 2016 |
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As I lead tourists from the Zodiacs up rocky trails to the penguin colonies, I notice how these visitors—stuffed into oversize, puffy red parkas—walk like the penguins themselves: eyes to the snowy ground, arms out for balance.
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