The Last Girls by Lee Smith
This may sound kind of silly but my decision to read this book came after reading on the inside cover that the story was about a reunion of friends. My husband and I both have high school reunions coming up this fall, so it seemed like the ideal thing to get me in the mood, add to my anticipation, and build enthusiasm for getting together with old friends.
The Last Girls is a contemporary novel about four women – now in their 50’s – who reunite for a steamboat cruise down the Mississippi. It is a trip they all took together once before as college students 34 years ago. But their trip in the 1960’s was on a raft with a whole group of girls. This time they are carrying a fifth friend’s ashes to ceremonially bury her in the river. No longer are they still real close to one another… or seriously sentimental about their deceased friend Baby. They are going as a favor to Baby who had made her request clear to her husband in her last wishes because those college years had been the best years of her life.
Harriet – a shy single teacher, unhappy with her life but she can’t seem to change it.
Courtney – married, pretty, sophisticated. Seems to have it all but is she happy?
Anna – world famous author. who seems to be living vicariously through her romance novel heroines.
Catherine – nothing distinctive to say about her but she is on her third husband Russell (who tags along on the cruise) and he obviously gets on her nerves.
Baby (deceased) – She was wild, passionate, unpredictable, and liked to live dangerously.
This book could have been great with the characters having all kinds of potential. The concept of the reunion was intriguing… but what a disappointment. Character development fizzled early and the plot became bland and predictable. Major elements of the story didn’t really make sense; the women took this opportunity to re-connect and honor Baby and their glorified past, yet were all aloof, pretentious, and self absorbed. They had very little communication with each other and all but Harriet seemed un-emotionally invested in the trip. Ironically, the two most interesting characters were husband number three – Russell – and the deceased friend Baby. By mid book, I found myself wondering if these women were ever really that close to begin with and if they would ever bother to see each other again. I certainly wouldn’t read a sequel! It reminded me of a mediocre “made for TV” movie.
Disappointedly, The Last Girls was clearly NOT the motivator for attending my own reunion that I’d hoped it would prove to be.
Rated 2.5 Stars.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.