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The Last Girls

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  4,843 ratings  ·  426 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
164th out of 645 books — 1,643 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
326th out of 843 books — 2,080 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Connie
First let me say I love Lee Smith's writing. She is masterful at peppering her characters with the Southern nuances, charms and language that is familiar to me and I love that. However, this was not the best "story" of hers I have read. She did the narration herself for the audio and the honey smooth drawl of the south she gave to these women may have helped the rating.

This is a great premise as it is the tale of college roommates, who took a raft trip down the Mississippi in the mid 60's. The
...more
Kris
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
Michele
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
Leah
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
Dana
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
Holly
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
Delores
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
Val
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
Stewart
"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
Melinda
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
Roberta
***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
Jan
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
“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 reminisc
...more
Michael
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
Aspasia
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
Francine
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
Karen
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.
Lizzann
It wasn't until I finished the book and read the acknowledgements at the end that my impression of the story was confirmed. The story is about four women in their mid fifties who meet in Memphis to board a cruise boat to travel down the Mississippi to New Orleans. They were suite mates in college and are repeating a trip they made by raft some thirty four years earlier. Their purpose is to spread the ashes of another friend.

Each of the characters has their own story/life problems that seemed to
...more
Lisa
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.
Mary Fabrizio
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 la ...more
Elizabeth
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.
Debfiddle
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
Ricki
During the mid 1960's, a group of Southern college girls decide to take a raft trip on the Mississippi River after reading Mark Twain in class.
Thirty years later, the trip is recreated by five of them, reuniting to dispose of the ashes of one of the original girls. The story is told by several of the
characters...sometimes interesting, but most times tedious to read....I kept waiting for it to get better, but alas, to no avail...And the ending, definately not good....If you must read this, my re
...more
Meg
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
Jennifer
I liked this book. I wouldn't call it a ROMANCE novel - it was NOT, but it was sort of that style... except the writing was good. Definitely, it was a book for women, being about four women who had gone to college together some 30 odd years earlier and who had taken a raft trip down the Mississippi River with a large group of girls they went to college with. They got together for a Riverboat Cruise to have a memorial for the fifth friend, Baby, who had recently died.

The story went back and forth
...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
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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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“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.” 3 likes
“It's true that when anyone dies, the other dead rise up abd die all over again.” 1 likes
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