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My Last Continent

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It is only among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica that Deb Gardener and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For a few blissful weeks each year they study the habits of Emperor and Adelie penguins and find solace in their work and in one another. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is a fragile place, imperiled by the world to the north.

Each year, Deb and Keller play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research station. But this year, when Keller fails to appear on board, Deb begins to reconsider their complicated past and the uncertainty of any future they might share. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from The Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

308 pages, Hardcover

First published June 21, 2016

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About the author

Midge Raymond

12 books119 followers
Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and a short-story collection, Forgetting English, which received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Midge is also the author of Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life and Everyday Book Marketing: Promotion Ideas to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life and teaches creative writing workshops around the country. She taught communication writing at Boston University for six years, and she has taught creative writing at Boston's Grub Street Writers, Seattle's Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink.

Midge lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Visit her online at www.MidgeRaymond.com.

"Midge Raymond’s debut novel is a sensitive exploration of how even the smallest action can ripple through an ecosystem — seemingly impenetrable, but as fragile as the human heart." — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

My Last Continent is a complicated love story and an education in the plight of penguins in Antarctica, showcasing the beauty and terror unique to one of the world’s most remote terrains…Raymond skillfully captures the stunning and singular landscape and its special inhabitants.” — Publishers Weekly

“Atmospheric and adventurous…the story and vivid writing will keep readers glued to the pages.” — Library Journal

"Raymond's prose often lights up the poetry-circuits of the brain." — The Seattle Times

"If you’re a writer looking for a friendly companion and supportive coach for your writing life, you’ll find her living in the pages of Everyday Writing." —Judy Reeves, author of A Writer's Book of Days

"Whether we're aspiring writers or already published, in this age of overcommitment and social media, we all lose connection to our writer-selves. Midge Raymond's cool, clear, lovely voice in Everyday Writing is the way back. This invaluable collection of writing prompts and sage advice should be on every writer's shelf—and used!—alongside Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing.”
—Jenna Blum, author of New York Times & international bestsellers Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Whether you are a seasoned writer, or just beginning your first novel, this is an important book to own. You will find yourself going back to it again and again for reference and assistance." — Portland Book Review

Everyday Book Marketing is an indispensable resource…The practical advice contained within has more worth than many other alleged guidebooks." — Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

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794 (43%)
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414 (22%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 391 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,008 reviews36k followers
June 6, 2016
Geeeeeezzzzzz......I hate it...I love it....I hate it.... I love it....
.....damn it....I cried twice in two very specific places....
I could not put this book down... I'm shaking having just finished it....exhausted with tears in my eyes.....
I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone!!!

"One thing the animal kingdom had not yet taught me is that hope is more punishing than grief." - wow -

"One winter, I watched an Adelie penguin minding her nest during an unexpected
snowstorm. Soon covered with snow herself, she didn't move. Her eggs would never hatch, and even if they did, her newborn chicks would freeze, or drown--but still she didn't leave them. Was this instinct? Or was it hope?"

Right from the start of this story we know there is going to be a horrific disaster....
The thought entered my mind...should people be in the Antarctic at all? It's a risk!
Then I remembered I watched "March of the Penguins", narrated by Morgan Freeman three times. How wonderful it was to learn about Penguins - their behaviors and to have been able to visually take in the breathtaking surroundings. I just love those little black and white flightless birds.

In Midge Raymond's novel, "The Last Continent", she deepened my respect for Antarctica - the quiet, peaceful environment , covered in ice ( the coldest, windiest, driest continent on the planet) ...composed of Penguins, whales, seals, seabirds, fish and krill)....while creating gorgeous visuals and atmosphere...making me feel I, too, was sleeping on the hard icy ground as *Deb Gardner*, (leading female character, naturalist, and Penguin expert), often preferred to do rather than sleep in a heated cabin.

*Keller Sullivan* is the leading male. His beginning journey to the Antarctic is very different from the academic science background that Deb began from. His prior history is sad...it was hard to shake for me ...wondering his deepest inner thoughts as he moved forward. Yet, he's bright..also educated ...and catches on quickly..moving from dishwasher- tag along guy to deeply dedicated Antarctic explorer and naturalist.

Keller and Deb slowly fall in love. They have a relationship a little like Penguins--each of them off on their own separate journeys until they meet again --
sharing nests reserved for their expeditions, for the peninsula, for the camps they build together. Their love for each other has as much to do with Antarctica as it does them. ( a little complicated).
However...Deb has a history of not being comfortable with intimacy- (witness to crumbling marriages, love affairs, sibling rivalry, etc.) ...
Keller brings loss and grief on his plate when they meet....so in many ways they are a stable - complicated - strong love match) ....and very tenderly-beautiful when together.

I found it fascinating to experience the reality of an injured sick person in Antarctica. If they are bleeding or vomiting...it's crucial to scoop up the blood and vomit-covered snow. The Antarctic is one of the last pristine environments in the world... and great lengths must be taken to protect the animals from anything foreign. There are several scene....( stories within stories)... all very engaging.

This entire book was wonderful -- ( except for moments of hating it when I loved it TOO much)....and its probably as close as I'll ever get to Antarctica. I enjoyed reading about the habits of the Adelie and Emperor penguins. I could understand why people like Deb had a strong passion for them.

It broke my heart when Keller wished he had bought his babysitter a car. ( after you read the story ...that line will make more sense)....
The last section of the book my stomach was in knots....yikes almighty!!!!

I had a couple of great laughs.... "Blind Hairy Yeti Crabs", anyone??? lol
....when Keller and Deb had a dead battery- slept together - ONLY SLEPT - on the ice....I chuckle at the 'thought' of him (being a weasel) -- planning their little catastrophe....haha. ( he didn't plan it,....but he 'liked' it).

Soooo much to love about this novel. Oh wait ... I hated it - can't you tell? Haha!

Thank you to Scribner Publishing, Netgalley, and the very mean-girl ..Midge Raymond...( as now I adore her and want to read her again). Don't make me cry!!!! :)
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
486 reviews1,359 followers
July 13, 2016
The Antarctic. A place to run to in order to find yourself or a place to hide from oneself.
Deb Gardner is a naturalist studying Penguins in the deep freeze of the southern hemisphere. Here she feels most in her comfort zone among the beautiful animals she studies respecting the nature and the behaviour of animals because they do not cause intentional harm the same way humans do. Yet, love has a way of reaching even the most remote parts of the earth. As does heartache.

The structure of the story moves from different moments of the past to the present, telling of a love story in the deep freeze. It did take me some time to acclimatize to this, but in the end, it worked. The backdrop of penguins and icebergs lends a glimpse into the cold but fascinating part of the world that is so desolate and remote but surprisingly rampant with life.

My Last Continent is an engaging debut with emotional themes of love and loss but also an environmental one and the impact we have on our lives and the animals that inhabit it. A worthy and recommended read. 4 ✭
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
June 24, 2016
3.5 I have such a huge fascination for the Antarctic continent, a place I will never visit. Plus, love reading novels set in cold climates when it is so blasted hot out.

Wonderfully descriptive writing, the cold, the ice, the glaciers, and the wonderful penguins. A love story between Deb and Keller, but it is so blended with the setting that their love for each other is entwined with their love of the Antarctic. Loved all the environmental warnings, what the changes of global warning and more tourism in these areas are costing the wildlife there and what it will eventually cost us. All done in a non preachy manner, just fitted in nicely with the structure of the plot.

A cruise ship tries to get too close to an area where they should not have been and a tragedy ensues. Held my breath for parts of this, very tense, and keep in mind this is not a Titanic type story, not written in a dramatic style, the scene itself is dramatic enough. Did doubt Deb's actions here, don't think what she did made much sense but all in all enjoyed this story very much. Also wasn't a big fan of the back and forth timeline of this one, current, past and Deb's backstory in alternating chapters, but it did not prove to be too distracting and I got used to it.

Unusual location for a love story, with gorgeous descriptions and wonderful penguins, one in particular and some courageous characters.

ARC from Netgalley.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews392 followers
July 13, 2016
"One thing the animal kingdom had not yet taught me is that hope is more punishing than grief.

We don't know much about animals' capacity for hope. We do know that they grieve, that they are joyful and playful and mischievous and clever. We've seen animals work together toward a common goal, and we've seen them use tools to get what they want. Despite what many believe, they are not so different from us."

Deb Gardner would much rather spend time with penguins than with people. Her job as a research scientist keeps her in the Antarctic most of the year, which suits her just fine. But through her years on the job, she's seeing the changes. The changes in the temperatures and the ice. The changes in the penguin colonies. And the changes in the boats travelling to Antarctica. The continent at the bottom of the world that used to only see a couple hundred scientists each year is now seeing a couple *thousand* tourists each year as more and more people want to check Antarctica off their bucket lists.

This book took me by surprise. I loved the timeliness of the environmental message, which delivered an impact without being overdone. I loved the depth of the characters -- seeing their humanity and vulnerability. I loved Raymond's gorgeous descriptions of the Antarctic landscape and the playful description of the penguins. And I loved the love story that was buried within the larger story. Not at all overwrought, yet grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go.

4.5 stars.

Thank you to Scriber and NetGalley for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,938 reviews787 followers
September 22, 2017
This book was one that I eagerly waited to read. I fell in love with the cover and the blurb and was really looking forward to reading a love story set in Antarctica. And, the book was good, just not that fantastic good I had hoped for. It took some time for me to get into the story and all the flashbacks that told the reader about how Deb and Keller met were not always that interesting to read about, not since the present story was more interesting. Sure, with the flashbacks we learned how they met and the reason for Keller not being aboard the ship. But it slowed down the story a bit. And, reading about Deb's growing up and college time really didn't feel that important. I guess I just never really found myself engrossed in their story, not enough to really be pulled into the story. They never really managed to get a life together beside the time they spend in Antarctica, and I felt that Keller was never really ready to settle down in the same way as Deb was. All his reasons for not moving in with her for instance just were excuses for being free, to have a couple of months with Deb and then do something else.

But, then came the last part of the book, and here is where the story turned really good. Now the moment of truth is here, they have reached Australis and deb is frantically searching for Keller, will she find him? Well, that's the questions...

So, in the end, was this not the brilliant book that I had hoped it to be, true it was not a bad book either. It was good, some flashbacks I liked, some felt less interesting, but the ending was superb!

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
June 10, 2016
"As every Antarctic traveler knows, once you being to fear the ice, the relationship changes forever."

From the beginning of this novel, you know that there will be a ship that sinks near Antarctica. The narrator, Deb, is an ornithologist specializing in Adélie penguins, who spends several months a year tracing penguin migration, counting numbers of chicks and survivors, etc. In between research tasks she gives tours and talks to tourists who have come to the end of the earth.

Along the way, she falls in love, with a man who seeks out isolation and danger for his own reasons. She sees her life and her love for him through the lens of her unique world - the ship, the ice, the birds.
"Today I'm looking at an entirely new skyline - the icebergs have split and shifted, floated and collided and melted - not unlike Keller and me over the past two years. We're all still here, only different."
Everything is metaphor but I loved it entirely. I don't usually like romance all that much but put a love story inside a cold, bleak place and make the stakes high and I'm all in!

Thanks to the publisher who provided a review copy of this book through Edelweiss. And for confirming that I could read from and quote from that copy.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,268 followers
June 15, 2016

I did not want to put this book down. I found myself picking up the book again, just to read just a little more, just a few more pages… I was mesmerized from the start. Beautifully written, a story that hooks you from the very beginning.

While you know some facts from the start, that there will be a disaster that takes place unexpectedly, it takes away nothing from this lovely debut novel by Midge Raymond.

Deb Gardner has been going to Antarctica for years, at first for her love for the penguins and their environment, but it’s become more than that to her. This is the place where she feels most like herself, where she’s able to just be. Originally drawn to the penguins for their appearance, she has learned their ways, the importance of their partner. She loves their “ecstatic cry,” the sound they make when reunited with their partner. The months of the year when she is back in Oregon are just to allow her to be here.

And then there’s Keller Sullivan, a former practicing attorney who walked away from it all in search of something with more meaning. A life that wouldn’t remind him of his former life, and all the heartaches it included. A place so different from his life near Boston that it can’t remind him of what he’s lost.

There are multiple additional characters, passengers on the ship(s) they are on, some are also crew, their stories all add more dimension to the overall view of the dilemma regarding who (and how often) should people be visiting this area of the world.

Pub Date: 21 June 2016

Many thanks to Scribner Publishing, NetGalley and to the author Midge Raymond for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review!

Profile Image for Heather *sad DNF queen*.
Author 19 books462 followers
August 24, 2016
I can't escape first person present tense. It's invading every genre. It's everywhere. Resistance is futile.

I love reading Antarctica books, but I didn't enjoy this. While the descriptions of the continent, though too few and far between, were accurate, there was very little else to recommend this novel in my opinion. Everything aside from the Antarctica bits were boring. So boring. The love story, the parts where Deb goes home, her life up until the present... BORING.

The writing did not flow at all. It tried so hard to be all poetic and draw parallels between Antarctica and life, but they were so forced and clumsy. The frickin' penguin metaphors were crammed in there like crazy. If someone ever mentions monogamous penguins mating for life or some shit to me I might just punch them in the face. They won't even know why and they'll just think I'm unusually aggressive.

One thing I've noticed when reading nonfiction Antarctica books is that the researchers and other workers who travel there tend to be territorial, standoffish, disdainful of visitors, and generally unfit for life anywhere besides Antarctica. This isn't always the case, of course, but they've been portrayed this way enough times that I've taken notice of it. Well, this book takes it one step further and makes them into annoying environmental crusaders.

For what it's worth, I do believe changes need to be made to humanity's way of life in order to protect the environment, but I fucking HATE when it's preached at me. And no, I don't believe the people who work in Antarctica are so fucking perfect that they have a right to act superior to others. Like they've never made a harmful mark on the environment. Like they aren't interfering with penguin colonies (no matter what they say) or pouring drilling fluid into ice.

Okay, this is fiction, and I'm getting a little worked up. I know. Anyway, my point is there are Antarctica tourists in this book, and they are portrayed as the stupidest fucking bumbleheads I've ever seen. And of course the workers look down on them (another thing I hate—people looking down on tourists. I'll save that one for another time). But seriously, they were SO STUPID. In Antarctica, death is just waiting to happen, and these people are out having a jolly good time running past the flag barriers because they want "alone time" or indulging in some quick freestyle rock-climbing or walking out onto ice. For fuck's sake. I don't even know why I'm mad about this. Maybe it's because these people were treated as annoyances for wanting to go on an Antarctic cruise in the first place, but when they did these life-threatening things, they were lightly reprimanded.

So, no, I didn't enjoy this book at all. And obviously I have issues with Antarctic workers, even though I've never actually met any. I may need therapy about this.

One star added for accuracy.

The end.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,765 followers
April 25, 2017
This first novel by short-story author, essayist and publisher Midge Raymond chills with deftly foreshadowed doom and warms with slow-burning passion.

Deb Gardner, a biologist who prefers polar isolation and penguins to warmer climes and the company of humans, spends part of the year at a research station in Antarctica, studying effects of climate change and other human intrusions on penguin habitat. Ironically, it is ecotourism that affords her the opportunity to study her beloved flightless fowl. Raymond uses Deb's ethical conundrum to educate the reader on the pressure this amateur exploration of the South Pole puts on such a vulnerable ecosystem. We're killing it with love.

The love story between Deb and Keller Sullivan, a lawyer-turned-nature guide, is at the heart of the novel and propels the plot toward its cinematic catastrophe. The chapters career back and forth between the recent past and and the hours before an impending disaster; the tension remains high as we race to learn the fate of a sinking cruise ship.

The author captures the singular, desolate and desperate beauty of Antarctica with beautiful prose, mirroring the fragile and unpredictable nature of human relationships. My Last Continent is a gorgeous portrait of Antarctica, a deeply-moving cautionary tale of human invasion in this most fragile and hostile of environments; a love story and a disaster-drama written with intelligence, compassion, and skill.

Highly recommended and impossible to put down.
Profile Image for Dana.
440 reviews290 followers
August 26, 2016

Wow talk about an atmospheric book! I read this book in the summer and still felt the icy chill of the Antarctic whistle through the pages. Very impressive writing. This book is a love story, not just between Deb and Keller, but also Deb and the Antarctic. Both of which are unpredictable and capricious.

Couldn't put this book down, as is often the case with books that I love I find it difficult to write a decent review. My mind is still reeling from this emotional rollercoaster of a book. Maybe in the future I can write a coherent review of this. In the meantime feel free to check out all the other awesome reviews for this book that have been posted by much better writers than I.

Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: Buy (If you are not opposed to lots of time jumps)

Check out more of my reviews here

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,168 reviews1,642 followers
January 20, 2019
"It seems like there are two kinds of people who come to Antarctica. Those who have run out of places to go, and those who have run out of places to hide."

Deb Gardner is the latter kind and so is her love interest, Keller Sullivan. As readers, we know early on there will be a shipwreck that will have dire consequences for them. But the story unfolds gradually, with chapters that take us way back into Deb's life and then quickly moves forward to days before the shipwreck. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we begin to figure out who Deb really is and understand the significance of her love affair with Keller.

In the meantime, we learn a lot about the last continent-Antarctica. Midge Raymond has certainly done her homework and her insights feel authentic and fascinating. We learn the paradox of tourism to this mysterious continent: how tourism both preserves and harms the continent and the penguins and how each act we perform inadvertently hastens their extinction-whether it's eating a fish dinner onboard or losing a wedding ring in the Antarctic ocean. Keller says, "The tourists were obsessed with firsts. Scott, Amundsen, all of them -it was about doing it first. Now everyone is obsessed with lasts. Checking off their last continent. Seeing it before it's all gone. Seems they'll be bragging about who photographed the last living Adelie."

Ultimately, this book is like the movie Titanic with teeth. It's a poignant love story about two damaged people who must balance their separate lives with a passion for the continent. It's about how to responsibly take our role within the ecosystem. And it's also about how each life matters - from our own human lives to the lives of others in the animal and bird kingdom. It's also a page-turner that had me reading way into the night.

Profile Image for Claudia - BookButterflies.
421 reviews257 followers
February 22, 2020
"...mittlerweile sehe ich Antaktiska nicht mehr nur als Ort, sondern als lebendiges Wesen, denn für mich war es immer so wandelbar wie die Geschöpfe, die es beherbergt..."

Vom Klappentext her erwartete ich eine (vielleicht recht kitschige) Liebesgeschichte zwischen zwei Forschern am Ende der Welt - in der Antarktis. Doch was ich bekam war so viel mehr! Die Liebesgeschichte ist wichtig, nimmt aber nicht das gesamte Buch ein, sie erklärt warum die Protagonistin handelt wie sie es tut, aber gleichzeitig steckt in diesem tollen Buch so viel mehr. Vor allem viele Pinguine ;)

Deborah ist Forscherin und auch Expeditionsleiterin auf Antarktis-Kreuzfahrtschiffen. Das Setting ist von der Autorin fantastisch gezeichnet und als jemand der selbst erst kürzlich durch das antarktische Meer geschippert ist und auch wenige Sekunden drin "baden" konnte, kann ich alles unterstreichen was die Autorin schreibt. Sehr authentisch! Dabei webt sie in die Geschichte passend sehr viele Informationen zur Geschichte und der Natur & Tierwelt der Antarktis ein. Vielleicht bin ich etwas voreingenommen, weil mir das Setting und die vielen Infos so viel gegeben haben >> Erinnerungen an eine fantastsiche Reise, aber trotzdem ist das Buch vom Schreibstil her sehr gut und die Geschichte war spannend.

Man springt in den Zeiten hin und her und erfährt so zum einen wie Deborah und Keller sich treffen, verlieben und warum ihre Geschichte so Komplex ist, gleichzeitig steuern wir auch auf ein Schiffsunglück zu, was mir zu Ende wirklich den Atem anhalten lies. Alles in allem ein tolles Buch für Antarktis-, Pinguin- und schöne Geschichten - Fans.

Das Video zum Buch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl92v...

*Rezensionsexemplar - Danke an den btb Verlag!
Profile Image for Diana • Book of Secrets.
780 reviews571 followers
July 23, 2016
Sad! Beautiful! MY LAST CONTINENT is a story about love and loss, about running away only to find yourself in a remote land of ice. I'm almost certain that reading this book will be the closest I get to Antarctica, and I appreciated the author's gorgeous descriptions.

There are three main characters in this book: Deb, an ornithologist who studies penguins; Keller, a former Boston lawyer who heads to Antarctica as a dishwasher; and the continent itself, who brings Deb and Keller together and comes between them at the same time.

We know from the beginning that a tragedy is looming. A cruise ship in the area full of tourists has hit ice and a distress call has gone out. The story moves back and forth, past to present, as Deb reveals what brought her to Antarctica and how she fell in love with the penguins and Keller. Of course, there's always an ominous feeling present, wondering what will happen with the doomed ship.

This book was well researched, and the author's love of Antarctica shone through brilliantly. Though the ice is stark and intimidating, the ecosystem is fragile. Should humans be there? Maybe not, but I can understand why people are drawn to the last continent.

Fantastic debut novel! I listened to this book on audio, which was narrated by Cassandra Campbell. I think she captured the compassion, desperation, and hope of main character Deb beautifully.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Myrna.
708 reviews
July 29, 2016
My Last Continent has a little romance, a sinking ship and a loving homage to Antarctica and penguin studies. The novel also jumps back and forth in time, has great characters and is very heart-wrenching. Overall an original, interesting story done in a nice, refreshing way. I look forward to reading more of her future novels.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,395 reviews145 followers
June 20, 2016
“The tent is tight and cramped, not unlike our individual sleeping quarters on the Cormorant – but now, rather than the hum of the ship, we hear the sounds of penguins and waves lapping the bay; rather than the dry heated air, the night is alive with a gelid summer mist”

My Last Continent is the first novel by American author, Midge Raymond. Deb Gardner is a naturalist who studies penguins. Some thirteen years after she first went to Antarctica as part of the Antarctic Penguin Project, she is witness to a terrible shipwreck, the effects of which are far-reaching in her own life.

Antarctica may seem like an unlikely place to fall in love, but when ex-lawyer Keller Sullivan turns up as a kitchen hand, his genuine interest in the penguins that Deb is studying gets under her usual defences. Eventually, they are partners in the research project. But, just like their sea voyages on the Cormorant to the frozen continent, all is not smooth sailing in their love affair.

Deb’s first person narrative alternates between the immediate time before the shipwreck, after the shipwreck and many years before the shipwreck, exploring how she came to be an Antarctic researcher and her relationship with Keller, as well as describing the shipwreck and the immediate aftermath.

Raymond manages to incorporate within her story a wealth of information about penguins and their behaviour, the polar landscape, the effects of tourism, and research practices, and does so in a way that makes it interesting and easily assimilated. Her plot is original; her characters are realistic, if a bit quirky, and all the more appealing for their flaws; her descriptive prose is highly evocative: the cold and danger are almost palpable, while the stark beauty of the landscape comes effortlessly to mind.

“…the silence fills my mind like water in a jar – the world goes smooth and clear, with nothing but the whisk of wind around the ice, the splash of a penguin entering the water, the gurgle of waves against the ice. We float along the edge of an iced city, the bergs rising out of the water like skyscrapers. The sea has arched doorways into the sides; the wind has chipped out windows. In the distance, several conical formations tower over the bay, with deep crevasses in their sides, as if enormous claws have slashed through them, drawing blue light instead of blood”

Raymond’s debut novel is a moving and thought-provoking story of love and loss, of beauty and danger, of joy and tragedy. It is filled with gorgeous prose, with emotion, and with interesting facts. With this novel, Midge Raymond proves herself a talented author whose further works will be eagerly anticipated.
4.5 stars
Profile Image for Kathleen.
889 reviews
March 3, 2017
"My Last Continent feels refreshingly different, vivid, and immediate. Midge Raymond has an extraordinary gift for description that puts the reader bang in the middle of the action, bang in the middle of its dangerous and endangered world. Her clean spare prose pulls us irresistibly into the story and the wider issues it raises. She is clearly a writer in command of her craft." - M. L. STEDMAN, author of The Light Between Oceans

"An unforgettable debut with an irresistible love story, MY LAST CONTINENT is a bighearted, propulsive novel set against the dramatic Antarctic landscape that raises questions about love, loss and our fragile environment." - Quote from the book flap

"I get a plastic bag from our camp, then return to the scene and begin scooping up the blood-and vomit-covered snow. Because this is one of the last pristine environments in the world, we go to great lengths to protect the animals from anything foreign." -Quote from pages 23,24

I have always been interested in the Antarctic and Arctic regions of our world and over the years have read stories about the explorations of Robert Scott, Richard Byrd and Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, Sir Martin Frobisher and Sir John Franklin and others.

It was easy for me to like the main characters, Deb Gardner, Keller Sullivan and Kate Archer. They cared deeply for Antarctica, nature and wildlife that lived there, especially the chinstraps, the gentoo, emperor and Adelie penguins.

MY LAST CONTINENT is told in first person and goes back and forth in time. Although I prefer to read stories written in a smooth linear timeline, the author's use of headings with the time frame indicated worked fine and did not confuse or distract me.

Reading MY LAST CONTINENT by Midge Raymond has completed my personal challenge of reading a book with a setting in each of the seven continents with this one for Antarctica. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it.

Profile Image for Carlos.
588 reviews289 followers
December 16, 2016
Actually 3.5 stars. The premise of the book, the background (Antarctica), and the minor characters all work perfect in this book, but I was not convinced by the main plot of the book, I thought it was too easy to decipher what the ending would be , another thing that I did not like were all the flashbacks that the book relied on , while it was ok at the beginning I don't see how they helped the main story move along , instead I think the author should have spent more time taking advantage of Antartica as a background (come on .... there is so much that could been talked about) and less in trying to make us understand a character who while pretending to be "unique" ends up being as normal as contemporaneous people tend to get . I read this b cause I wanted to see more glimpses of the continent . The story is good and believable but ends up just being too predictable to merit anything better than 3.5 stars from me .
August 22, 2016

Audiobook Comments Included

Midge Raymond's debut, My Last Continent, is an ode to Antarctica with a unique and emotional love story. Raymond's rich and descriptive narrative, while at times overly used, takes readers on a harrowing journey to a land rarely traveled.

Deb has dedicated her life to research and studying the colonies of penguins in Antarctica. For the last several years, she has spent part of her year working for the Antarctic Penguin Project. While in the Southern Hemisphere, she splits her time between researching on neighboring islands and working as a naturalist crew member on the small cruise ship that provides the transportation for the Project. One year she meets Keller, a divorcee former lawyer turned dishwasher, looking to turn over a new leaf after his life took an unexpected turn. The two form a quick bond when he starts helping her with her research. But their romance is fleeting, encumbered by Keller's newfound love for the continent and Deb's work at home in Eugene. Just when they figure things out, Keller doesn't show up on the ship. Deb learns that he is on a neighboring cruise ship that's taking on water fast.

The romance in this story takes a backseat to the picturesque and incredible third character in this novel: Antarctica. The amount of research that Raymond had to do to so vividly describe not only the scientific intricacies, but also all of the nautical references had to have been astounding. All of her hard work makes it easy for the reader to feel like they are right there with Deb, Keller, and the rest of the crew. It's abundantly clear that conservation and global warming are two things that are near and dear to the author's heart. These messages are woven throughout the novel, though a little heavy handed.

The writing style of this book was very heavy on long, narrative passages, with little dialogue. Much of the narrative is devoted to descriptions of the continent and the various kinds of penguin colonies. There were also some chapters of backstory that didn't feel entirely necessary.

While I really enjoyed the educational aspect of the book, the novel felt slow and needed more plot to help with the pacing. Further, the metaphors and comparisons made about how Deb identified with the penguins and how she felt connected to the continent were repeatedly mentioned. An active reader can pick up on those things without them needing to be brought up over and over again.

Despite issues with the writing style, My Last Continent is certainly unique in its setting and storyline. I felt like I was reading a more modernized version of the movie Titanic once I got to the shipwreck. I was absolutely glued to the pages when Deb learns of . The search and rescue was riveting and completely terrifying.

* I received an advance eCopy and the audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Audiobook Comments:

I listened to this book after I read it initially because sometimes I like to reread through audiobooks without the concern of zoning out while I'm driving. I really liked Cassandra Campbell's narration. Her voice adds an almost romantic quality to the book's beautiful ambiance. Highly recommended audiobook!

Quote - My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

MY LAST CONTINENT was one of my Most Anticipated Reads of 2016 !!

2016 - Most Anticipated Books

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Profile Image for Andrea.
769 reviews30 followers
February 18, 2019
People go to Antarctica for two reasons; either they’ve run out of places to go, or run out of places to hide.

Deb and Keller have built an unconventional, somewhat fragile romantic relationship around their annual research trips to Antarctica to study penguin populations and habits. But the relationship is what it is, and it’s real for both of them. This summer, despite having made very recent plans together, Deb arrives at their meeting point in Ushuaia, and Keller’s not there. Then, when she embarks the next day on their vessel, The Cormorant, she’s dismayed to find Keller is still not there. It turns out Keller is no longer welcome on The Cormorant, so he has taken a job on the cruise ship Australis as a way of being in Antarctica and - while not exactly with Deb - at least he is near her.

The weather is always changeable below the Antarctic Circle, and when Australis takes one risk too many and runs into trouble, The Cormorant is the closest potential rescue vessel.

This was a really quick read for me. The setting was interesting due to its unfamiliarity and the drama was unrelenting. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat for the final third of the book. I thought Deb may have taken some unrealistic risks during the emergency, but who am I to say?

Very satisfying.
Profile Image for Cher.
801 reviews275 followers
December 10, 2016
2 stars - Meh. Just ok.

Set primarily in Antarctica, the imagery and descriptions are vivid and create a wonderful escapist atmosphere. However, there is an extremely heavy handed focus on a romance, and it is unfortunately a tepid and forgettable one. Had the novel focused more on the environmental issues or generalized drama instead of a dispassionate cliché relationship, it would have been far more enjoyable. I would be interested in reading nonfiction by this author should she ever write such a book about Antarctica or penguins.
Favorite Quote: Most want to hear about the victims, not the rescuers. They don’t yet know that we are one and the same.

First Sentence: 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.
Profile Image for Laura.
181 reviews143 followers
June 6, 2016
Did you know that killer whales aren't actually whales (they're dolphins), or that a healthy penguin’s poo is pink, or that the driest desert on earth is in Antarctica?

This book taught me A LOT about Antarctica. It's two things at once: a lyrical, intense love letter to Antarctica and a slightly less convincing love story.

The main character, Deb, is a researcher who travels around the continent counting penguins, sometimes living with the colonies for weeks at a time. She loves Antarctica passionately and tries to spend as much time there as possible. To do this, she works as a tourist guide on board a ship, educating often clueless tourists who really just want to check their ‘last continent’ off a mental ticklist. Deb is content with her life on the ice with the penguins until Keller turns up. Keller is just as in love with Antarctica as her, and they fall into a weird love triangle involving two people and a large polar landmass.

The story is told as a build up to a maritime disaster - the sinking of a giant cruise liner in the icy Antarctic waters. This isn’t a spoiler - it’s referenced on the second page and the chapters names all refer to it, e.g. ‘One week before the shipwreck’.

What this book did really well was paint a picture of a landscape which is both awe-inspiring and slowly dying. The bits of the book that happened in Antarctica were engaging and realistic and I did kind of feel like I’d been there myself when I put the book down. I mean, it does look incredible.

On the other hand, the parts of the story that happened outside the Antarctic circle didn’t really work for me. The characters’ back stories slid right out of my brain as soon as I read them; they weren’t given enough time to air and tended to lack detail. Because of this, the two main characters felt half-baked and I didn’t fully buy into their love story. This meant that the sex scenes were distinctly unsexy and I ended up more worried about what would happen to the penguins than what would happen to the couple. It was meant to be an epic love story but Romeo and Juliet it was not.

There was more than a bit of preaching as well. The narrative is peppered with unsubtle asides about how climate change is wreaking havoc on the fragile ecosystem and how seafood is unsustainable. Both the two main characters are vegans. I didn’t have a problem with these mini lectures (it was obvious that the reader was being lectured at), but I didn’t feel that any practical steps were offered. Other than not eating seafood, it wasn’t clear what normal people could do to save Antarctic wildlife. Also, Deb would have significantly reduced her carbon footprint if she’d sold her house in Oregon and got one in southern Chile. Then she wouldn’t have to fly halfway across the world four times a year.

The book was well written throughout, with a plot which only flagged a few times and built up to a satisfying and action-packed climax.

Now I’ve put this book down, I know that only certain things will stay with me, ie, the images of Antarctica and the amazing landscapes and wildlife there. Everything else - the love story, the characters and their backstories, I’ve pretty much already forgotten.

With thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in return for an honest review
Profile Image for Mike W.
162 reviews21 followers
April 30, 2016
Deb Gardner has preferred the company of penguins to people for most of her adult life. She spends as much time as nature and her funding allow, at least several weeks per year, in Antarctica, researching and counting penguins and tolerating the relatively few other humans with whom she is forced to interact. While her research is funded, her travel relies on sharing space and job duties on board a small ship that caters to wealthy passengers wanting to see Antarctica for various reasons. While she does seem comfortable educating the passengers as part of her job, they mostly appear to be a frustrating reminder to her of the ignorance and indifference about climate change science, especially as related to her continent and its penguins.

When Keller Sullivan first appears on the continent he's been hired as a dish washer, but he takes an immediate interest in Deb's work, offering to tag along and help on their first meeting. Though she prefers isolation, Keller's looks, personality and his genuine interest in her penguins causes Deb to break from her standard operating procedure and she allows him along. She eventually learns that he is no ordinary dish washer and that he'd been a successful attorney in Boston, married and a father to a young daughter but that tragedy had changed his circumstances. A romance develops, as apparently they often do on the continent, even among the married who have left their spouses back home, but when the season ends Deb finds that Keller will be staying instead of returning to Oregon with her as planned and they are indefinitely separated during which time she has finally been able to mostly forget him.

Of course, a love story requires that they meet again, and now Keller has become a peer, having returned to school to procure an advanced degree and has been hired to work on the same project as Deb. Their romance is sparked anew and it's here that the novel begins to fill in their back stories and the more complete truths about how they each ended up preferring the isolation at earth's end.

Looming from the book's earliest pages is the knowledge that a very serious accident once occurred on a massive cruise ship which sank during an effort to impress passengers with its ability to dip south and offer a glance of the last continent. The reader knows that this event is coming and that significant loss of life occurs. The reader also knows that Deb was witness to it, creating an almost tangible fog of angst throughout the read that steadily builds as more details are revealed. In fact the final 1/4 of this literary fiction skirts the border of thriller, probably crossing that line once or twice along the way and earning the old cliche of "un-put-downable".

At its heart, My Last Continent is a novel about human relationships but, not by accident, almost everything learned here can also be applied to the continent and to the earth as a whole. At times, the symbolism felt heavy handed and I think the novel likely set a world record for penguin related similes, but the steady reveal of back story and strong ending make for a rewarding reading experience. Don't get me wrong, the experience is at times uncomfortable as personal biases may clash with the strong opinions of the protagonists but as with all good fiction, it is in the end meant to teach us something about ourselves and here, My Last Continent succeeds.

ARC received free via NetGalley
Profile Image for Phyllis Runyan.
326 reviews
October 30, 2016
Great debut novel for this author. The descriptions of the environment in Antarctica had me wrapped up in a blanket at times. Deb Gardner travels to Antarctica every "summer" for her research on the different types of penguins and also the effects of humans (both researches and tourists) on the environment. It is there she meets Keller and falls in love. This is not a sappy love story but an unfolding of cautious love. The book travels back and forth in time and works well for this book. I loved it. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Rosie.
104 reviews42 followers
July 20, 2016
I really enjoyed this book and loved everything about it. It was beautifully written and I felt like I had been to Antarctica after reading it. I learned a lot about the continent and the wildlife there and how destructive tourism can be. I also loved the cover, which is what attracted me to the book in the first place. I laughed and I cried. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,242 reviews
February 22, 2016
Antarctica facts are intertwined over and under and up and through the love story of Deb and Keller. Deb grew up loving birds, and, during college, is pushed to a research assistantship in Antarctica. Keller wanted to go to Antarctica, but found the only way was to sign on as a dishwasher; so he did.

Throughout this wonderful, sparkling DEBUT novel, Deb and Keller's love for each other and love for the penguins they study is nothing short of overwhelming. A stunner to read.

I read this DARC courtesy of Edelweiss and Scribner/Simon & Schuster. Pub date 06/26/16
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
902 reviews111 followers
October 11, 2016
Absolutely loved this book! A book that actually begins with an Afterwards, and then weaves a tale that goes back and forth through Antarctica, as well as the lives of the narrator Deb and a man she meets there, named Keller. It is a love story and an ecological story, as well as a an adventure story about a cruise ship that ventures into the realm of Antartica. I am not really a big ecology-oriented person, but this story really hit me as a wakeup call for all of those people who feel the need to be on all 7 Continents in the world and the problems that are created by the new massive influx of tourists who come to Antarctic without the least thought as to how they are affecting the seas, the penguins, and the fish in the seas.
We begin with an Afterwards and then go back to a period a few years before the Cruise ship issue that is the main antagonist of the book. From there we swing back later into the narrators life and then back to a more recent period of time. It takes a really good writer to pull this off, and sometimes I have problems with this back and forth time period style, but Midge Raymond pulls it off beautifully.
We meet the narrator, crew of the research boat she is on, passengers on that boat, her current lover and past lovers, we see her fractured family and her love of birds that led to her love of penguins. All of this is woven into a tight and compact 308 pages and is a fast, fast read, especially the two longer chapters that deal with the cruise ship disaster. As an avid cruiser, I board those boats and never think about the ecological impact they have on the seas. We hear how they are doing better and better while we are on the cruises, the but she sheer amounts of cruise ships that now ply todays oceans and seas makes me wonder about the impact they make.
Again, not an eco-horror tale, but rather a love story that is squarely rooted in the narrators love of Antarctica and the penguins she goes down there to research every year, we follow a dedicated narrator who is brought to life expertly by the author. Great book and one that is a perfect book club read!
Profile Image for Empress Reece (Hooked on Books).
915 reviews79 followers
May 14, 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!
Professional Reader Challenge Participant 80%

Profile Image for Laurie Notaro.
Author 18 books2,068 followers
August 1, 2016
Flawlessly written, gorgeous structure and the science that went into this book is nothing short of amazing. Midge Raymond at once gives us a delightful inside look at the penguins of Antartica--which in itself is spellbinding--and then adds layer of deep character profiles, a horrible tragedy and a love story that is real without being sentimental and sappy. A beautiful, beautiful book, I loved it.
Profile Image for Kelsi H.
353 reviews12 followers
June 10, 2016
Please check out all of my reviews at http://ultraviolentlit.blogspot.ca!

My Last Continent is a beautiful, unusual love story – the love between a woman and a man, but also the love of both for the continent of Antarctica. Deb and Keller meet there, and it is where their love grows, as they observe penguin colonies and shifting icebergs. They find it easy to love while in the isolation of a snowstorm – but it is not so easy to survive as a couple in the real world. Like the penguins they study who sometimes mate for life, they are “loyal first and always to the continent.” (p. 79) While the main characters here are realistic and likeable, it is the setting and its wildlife that are the true stars of this novel.

The novel begins with a prologue titled “Afterwards,” describing a fatal shipwreck in the shifting ice floes of the waters around the Antarctic. In this future setting, Deb is guiding tourists through a penguin habitat, but all they ask her are questions about the cruise ship that sank five years before – the worst disaster in the history of the continent. The Australis lost over seven hundred passengers and crew, including several rescuers – and Deb doesn’t tell the tourists that, victim and rescuer, “we are one and the same.” (p. 3)

Chapters follow with headings such as “One Week Before Shipwreck”, continuing to build anticipation. The timeline jumps from years before to only days before the tragic event that claimed so many lives. Deb’s perspective is the main one, as we watch her relationship develop with Keller over years of seasonal travel to the Antarctic. As a research scientist, Deb spends part of every year on the southernmost continent, and feels most alive in the icy climate. Keller travels to Antarctica to escape a tragedy back home, and ends up staying in this new land where he feels truly alive. Both are obsessed with the continent and its creatures, wishing to preserve their habitat as it changes rapidly due to climate change.

To fund her research program, Deb must work as tour guide on a small vessel, the Cormorant. She tries to instill respect in her tourists, and teaches them that all of their actions and choices contribute directly to the global warming that is threatening the penguins. However, she must be careful what she says, because these people are also paying for her research. The Antarctic is imperiled by those that wish to enjoy it, seeing as the “last continent” to be crossed off their bucket list. In contrast, Deb feels like she is a part of the frozen landscape – she compares herself to her ship, saying “we are both built for the ice.” (p. 6)

The shipwreck is of course the pivotal point in the novel, and we know about it from the start, but that doesn’t take away from the thrilling aspect of the story as it slowly draws closer to the main event. The chapters, moving back and forth through time, circle around the climax, flowing like the sea around an iceberg to unavoidable catastrophe. When it finally happens, the descriptions are sensational, cinematic and shocking. The author clearly develops the stark isolation of the landscape, making the chaos of the shipwreck all the more dramatic compared to the surrounding lack of sensory input. The strength of this novel truly is the setting.

This is a quiet love story combined with an intense environmental thriller. The reader is immersed in the natural world, then that world is shattered by a major disaster – and not only for the human victims of the wreck. Deb’s first concern is that the remnants of the ship, as it slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean, will destroy the natural habitat at an even more rapid speed than climate change. The author clearly has an agenda here – her passion for the Antarctic is a warning that we have to live with care to preserve this mostly unexplored world. The descriptions of wildlife are sometimes lengthy, but I still enjoyed them because the information is just so interesting.

Even with its many themes and concepts, the novel flowed smoothly and I loved reading it – I really couldn’t put it down. The love between Deb and Keller is realistic and believable, but it is their love for the Antarctic that makes this novel so special.


I was asked by the publisher to compare My Last Continent with another forthcoming novel: Arturo Perez-Reverte’s What We Become. Both involve intense love affairs that develop from sporadic meetings over the course of many years – Deb and Keller in My Last Continent, and Max and Mecha in What We Become. When they are reunited in the present, both couples are faced with a climactic event that shakes their relationship to its core. For Deb and Keller, it makes them stronger – their love is stripped to the basics and they learn what really matters in life. For Max and Mecha, current circumstances pull them apart, and they realize that their love may have been based on excitement and danger all along, with no real basis. And while both novels are large in scope, My Last Continent also delves into the minutiae of life, the details that make a real love story. In contrast, What We Become is epic in scale, but it doesn’t reach into the souls of its main characters in quite the same way. Both novels were strong, and I recommend both for summer reading, but for me, My Last Continent was a much more enjoyable read that I connected with on a deeper level.

I received this novel from Scribner/Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
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