The Last Girls

Front Cover
Algonquin Books, Aug 12, 2002 - Fiction - 400 pages
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.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MarthaHuntley - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - shesinplainview - LibraryThing

I had high hopes for this one, especially after having the privilege of hearing the author read from it. I was sorry to say though that I was disappointed, found it a little dull and the characters predictable. Read full review


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About the author (2002)

Born in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia, Lee Smith began writing stories at the age of nine and selling them for a nickel apiece. Since then, she has written seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and, most recently, Guests on Earth. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with her husband, the writer Hal Crowther. Visit her at

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