Monday, February 6, 2023

The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church

A searing book club novel for fans of Where the Crawdad's Sing and The Girls in the Stilt House following one girl fighting for her family, her body, and her right to create a future all her own

Some folks will do anything to control the wild spirit of a Carolina girl...

For fourteen-year-old Leah Payne, life in her beloved coastal Carolina town is as simple as it is free. Devoted to her lumberjack father and running through the wilds where the forest meets the shore, Leah's country life is as natural as the Loblolly pines that rise to greet the Southern sky.

When an accident takes her father's life, Leah is wrenched from her small community and cast into a family of strangers with a terrible secret. Separated from her only home, Leah is kept apart from the family and forced to act as a helpmate for the well-to-do household. When a moment of violence and prejudice thrusts Leah into the center of the state's shameful darkness, she must fight for her own future against a world that doesn't always value the wild spirit of a Carolina girl.

Set in 1935 against the very real backdrop of a recently formed state eugenics board, The Last Carolina Girl is a powerful and heart-wrenching story of fierce strength, forgotten history, autonomy, and the places and people we ultimately call home.

Kindle, 304 pages
Expected publication February 28, 2023 
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3/5 stars

Told from the perspective of a fourteen-year-old, Leah's story is one of a sheltered life. She and her father live in a one-room shack, and she has no friends except for Jesse. As she leaves the area following the death of her father, her lack of social skills and her desire for family and affection come through. 

This book has been compared to Where the Crawdads Sing, which I enjoyed as an audiobook. The slow pace and the first-person narrative made it enjoyable to listen vs reading it. When it came to The Last Carolina Girl my feelings run in the same direction, I think I would have enjoyed it more in audio format.  It was just such a slow paced story that really lacked character development for everyone other than Leah.  It would have been great to get a glimpse into the head of her caregiver .

The blurb gives lots of the story away with some of it not happening until the 80% mark, spoiler alert!

The ending was abrupt, and I would have loved to read more about the next few years in this young girl's life. Fortunately, the author included notes, gave a lot of detail about the program in the US during this time and in subsequent years. 

Take my review with a grain of salt, I seem to be in the minority with my thoughts.

I am grateful to Sourcebooks (via NetGalley) for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

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