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The Last Girls

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  4,336 ratings  ·  391 reviews
Revered for her powerful female characters, Lee Smith tells a 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...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 2002)
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The Help by Kathryn StockettTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie FlaggGarden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Quirky Southern Fiction
143rd out of 586 books — 1,473 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
388th out of 761 books — 1,842 voters

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Community Reviews

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I cannot begin to express my disappointment in this book. I was so excited to find a book written about my life long dream of floating down the mississippi on a homeade raft (yeah-I'm serious). It had so much potential and it bombed, there was like one scene about the rafting and the whole book was so woe is me I almost threw it into the ocean (I read it on a spring break trip). Do not read this book
I was extremely disappointed with this book. The characters were poorly drawn. The point of view switched from one to another within a chapter. There were characters on the original boat trip who weren't included on the reunion trip - with no reason explained, and a bizarre mini-chapter at the end giving the reader information on them when the reader had never really heard of them to begin with. There was no reason to even have them as a part of the story at all. It should have been the five wom...more
Apr 22, 2008 Leah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: almost no one.
This is based on a group of girls from an all-girls college. It plays into the stereotypical 1950's view of women having a wasted life if they do not get married or have children. Its probably supposed to have a metaphor about life, but I missed it. So much potential and yet the book fell short. I did enjoy the writing style, which is the only reason I read the whole book. SKIP IT.
Lisa Hall
This book had an interesting premise and started out well. Characters were drawn well. However, the book never really gained momentum. Hints were dropped in flashbacks which never quite came together. I kept expecting the book to build into something. You spend time with characters who appear to change yet you leave without really knowing what change has occurred or whether this trip down memory lane will have lasting consequences for this group. Overall, the book left a hollow feeling.

The most...more
Jun 23, 2013 Dana rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: home
This is one of those books I chose because of its setting (the South), but approached with caution because of its initial similarity to a grown-up version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: a group of ladies with distinctly different personalities who are drawn together by a common bond. I was pleasantly surprised that the characters of the book were much less one-dimensional than I had originally expected. I personally identified most with Catherine, the artist from Alabama. I was also q...more
After reading some of the not-so-favorable reviews, I realized listening to the audio version of this story might have enhanced my experience! The narrator is so perfect. She has a rich Southern drawl, and had just the right amount of bittersweet and nostalgia in her voice - perfect for the mood of this book. I thought it was The Big Chill meets The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (after I said this to my mom, I saw that one reviewer called it The Big Chill meets Huckleberry Finn - ha). T...more
Aug 08, 2012 Delores rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cati
Shelves: fiction
I picked this book up quite some time ago at a local book sale. It then sat on my shelf, which tends to happen. So on my journey to finally start tackling the books I own, I decided to read this one.

The story is about four college friends who reunite after many years to scatter the ashes of their fifth friend into the Mississippi River. Previously they had journeyed down the river while in college on a raft. There were actually more girls on the raft expedition but the story focuses on five of t...more
Simply marvelous book. I absolutely could not put it down once I started it. Every time I had to break from it: to sleep, to bathe, to go out to lunch with my mother and kids….it was agony. It is a lengthy book but even with these (necessary?) interruptions I managed to complete it in about 30 hours.

If anyone ever attended a women’s college in a small southern town you will feel right at home in these pages so wonderfully crafted by Lee Smith. I did. I graduated from Brenau Women’s College in Ga...more
"The Last Girls" is a fictional account of a cruise on a luxury steamboat down the Mississippi River in May 1999 by a group of women who went to college together in Virginia and who had taken a trip on a large homemade raft in 1965 down the same river. The book is based on the real-life raft trip down the Mississippi that the author and 15 of her classmates at Virginia's Hollins College (whose alumnae also include Annie Dillard) took in 1966.
Lee Smith provides a fascinating character study of...more
I would have thought that 432 pages would have provided sufficient time to develop a character or two, but this book definitely proved this aspiration wrong. After reading the summary, it appeared that this book had promise - college roommates reuniting 30+ years after embarking down the Mississippi River on a raft, but too much fell short. Even after all that time, these five women appeared just as immature, shallow and self-conscious as ever, none with whom I would ever imagine being friends....more
***letto nella edizione italiana Le ultime ragazze***

Nel 1965 alcune compagne di college, ispirate dalla lettura di Huckleberry Finn, decidono di discendere il fiume Mississippi in barca. Trentaquattro anni dopo quattro di loro si ritrovano a fare lo stesso viaggio, ma con una missione molto diversa: spargere nel fiume le ceneri di una di loro, Baby Ballou.

Mentre curiosavo in biblioteca ho notato questo romanzo (spesso punto a colpo sicuro i romanzi Neri Pozza) e la trama mi ha molto incuriosit...more
While there were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, overall I would have to say that it was disappointing.

With its long chapters full of dense, dialogue-free paragraphs, I had a hard time getting into the book to start. I felt that most of the main characters were poorly developed, to the point that I often thought to myself, "Now, why would they react like that?" Additionally, some of the main characters were only marginally likable, even after you learned of the personal tragedies that...more
Sarah Sammis
I love the cover art, the title and the concept of the book. I just wish I had actually enjoyed reading The Last Girls. I kept waiting for the story to get started but it seemed bogged down incoherent flashbacks. The only progression the book managed was the river boat's slow trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans.

There's nothing wrong with a book made up of flashbacks. Many writers have done it successfully: Nabokov's Lolita and Knowles's A Separate Peace are both good examples. Or for a more...more
The lives and loves of four women in their 50's are portrayed and contrasted in the context of a riverboat trip down the Mississippi as a reunion of their previous trip on a raft as college students at a small girls' school in Virginia 35 years before. The novel has a fairly good balance between reflection on the past life choices and current actions to try to connect with old friends and new possibilities. Yet it does not make you cry, it does not make you laugh, and the wisdom imparted is fair...more
This book opens with a character who is indecisive. This drives me crazy in real life and I thought it was a weird way to start a book. Overall this book is depressing. These former college roommates relive their Mississippi River voyage because one of their own has died. Not much of the original trip is mentioned in the book; the focus is on their college years and what happened to the four characters after college. None of the women seem happy with their current situation and some of them have...more
Twelve girls, pals while in college, take a rafting trip down the Mississippi in the 1960's to celebrate their approaching graduation. They, of course, go their separate ways but some of them stay in touch, however loosely. Several of them, much later in life, agree to take a river cruise (much more civilized)this time. One of their members has died, perhaps by suicide and they take the trip to remember their college years and throw some ashes on the river.

By anyone's life experience this is a g...more
I enjoyed this read. I liked the writing style, it moved nicely between memory and the current day of the four main characters. I think anyone that thinks back on their past (could be college, high school or even childhood days) could relate to this book. We have our impressions of our friends from these days and the current and it's hard to see the connections - until you have time and experience weave a connection between them.
Chick-lit all the way. Enjoyable story of a group of middle aged women who travel down the Mississippi on a tourist boat in a repeat of a more daring trip they had taken -- on a large raft -- in college. The book catches the characters up with each other and introduces us to them, but doesn't take us very deeply into what makes them tick.
I always enjoy Lee Smith's books. This is the story of girls who went to college together. They come back together to say a final farewell to one of the group. Just a good read.
Aug 07, 2014 Debfiddle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: other book clubs
Shelves: sassies
Revered for her powerful female characters, Lee Smith tells a 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...more
Aug 17, 2014 Meg rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
In college, a group of roommates decided to float down the Mississippi on a raft. Decades later, the girls meet again to recreate their trip. Their lives have all followed different paths, and have secrets. As they travel on the reunion trip, their secrets are revealed.

My only problem with this book is that the first down river trip received hardly any attention. It was more about the rest of the girls' college experiences, and what happened to them afterwards. However, I liked the style and the...more
Lynn Pribus
Better than a three, not quite a four, but I'm giving it four anyway. A leisurely trip down the mighty Mississip on the BELLE OF NATCHEZ -- a thinly disguised DELTA QUEEN which is now permanently moored in Chattanooga (and we have stayed aboard.) The characters (like the author) actually rafted down the river as college girls and the book takes place about 35 years later.

I first heard Lee Smith at the Virginia Festival of the Book last month when she and Jill McCorkle appeared to read from their...more
Megan Palasik
Uh, I don't even know what to say about this book. I had to force myself to finish it. I listened to it as an audio book and it was read by the author, so one would think that would make the experience that much more enjoyable! That was not the case for this book.

Actually, I think the author's reading made me like the book less. Sure, she had some great southern drawl and charm incorporated, but her reading was rather dull and not exciting to me. There were no less than 4 female main characters...more
With any other author this could have been classified as chick-lit. Four college girlfriends meet up 30 years later to cruise down the Mississippi river, and spread the ashes of their college suite mate. Along the way they'll learn a little about themselves and life and come to terms with their lost friend Baby Ballou.

Sounds a bit ridiculous really and ripe for cliche. And while it isn't a great book, there is something about Lee Smith's voice that imbues her novels with an authenticity not fou...more
Lee Smith writes about a part of the country I know, North Carolina, but she focuses on life in Appalachia, a world unto itself. I have enjoyed some of her novels very much. Fair and Tender Ladies and Oral History come to mind. This novel has characteristics of her works that I have enjoyed, but overall it failed miserably for me. I felt the characters lacked depth and never really connected with one another; they were truly like ships passing in the night. While each of the characters was deali...more
I loved On Agate Hill and should have heeded the advice to go onto Oral History or Fair and Tender Ladies after that. However, the easily accessible cd book form of The Last Girls tempted me with its potential for entertaining literature during my drive to and from work. Lee Smith, I am so sorry, but I was pretty disappointed with this one.

So much of it came across as trite, despite the subject matter. There was infidelity, insecurity, illness, jealousy, and much more, but it all was presented...more
I was hoping for a Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood book, but, this didn't quite measure up. In 1965, several friends built a raft out of 2X4s, commissioned a river captain and floated down the Mississippi a la Huck Finn after being inspired to do so by their favorite English professor at their all-girls' college. It's now 1999 and one of the women has died. Her husband requests that the "girls" re-enact the trip down this Mississippi and scatter her ashes. The book centers on the four wom...more
Marylu Sanok
I enjoyed this book about 85%. There was a little difficulty with the going back into the past, the number of characters that are not major to the story, and to the plot of the book being written by Anna.

The story is reminiscent of the First Wives Club in which 3 women get together to honor their friend. This story is a quasi return to their adventure of traveling down river on a raft, reminiscent of Huck Finn. The trip 30 years ago while they were in college and was a suggestion of one of their...more
I approached this book with expectations that may have been too high. After all, I loved Smith's book Fair and Tender Ladies, and was intrigued that she was finally writing fiction based on her Mississippi raft experience in college. Unfortunately, this book was a let-down. Her comedic characters were great and some of the dialogue was spot-on funny, but overall it lacked luster. I never felt like we did anything but skim the surface of most of the characters' lives for the entire book, and the...more
Andrea Rockel
I really enjoyed On Agate Hill, also by Lee Smith, so Beth let me borrow The Last Girls, since she’s a big Lee Smith fan. The Last Girls follows the lives of a set of girl friends from an adventurous ride down the Mississippi River on a raft in 1965, through to their middle age reunion on a luxury cruise down that same river, this time to dispose of the ashes of a now dead friend. I liked how Smith was able to write with depth about each of the many individual characters, despite the narrative b...more
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Southern Lit Lovers: The Last Girls - June 2013 - Spoilers Possible! 53 29 Jul 04, 2013 07:15AM  
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Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia, nine-year-old Lee Smith was already writing--and selling, for a nickel apiece--stories about her neighbors in the coal boomtown of Grundy and the nearby isolated "hollers." Since 1968, she has published eleven novels, as well as three collections of short stories, and has received many writing awards.

The sense of place infusing her...more
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Fair and Tender Ladies Oral History On Agate Hill Guests on Earth Saving Grace

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“Oh, if our children actually knew how much we love them, they’d never be able to hit any of these balls, they’d be simply immobilized by the force of it, by the awful force of our love.” 1 likes
“It's true that when anyone dies, the other dead rise up abd die all over again.” 1 likes
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