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The Last Girls
by Lee Smith

Published: 2003-09-30
Paperback : 432 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
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, ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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

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  "Southern Gals Reunion"by lollygil (see profile) 08/28/09

A group of Southern college "girls" take a raft trip down the Mississipi in the late stages of their life. They revist their memories of the original Mississippi River Trip and reflect on their life's... (read more)

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