Thirty-five years later, four of those "girls" reunite to cruise the river again. This time it's on the luxury steamboat, The Belle of Natchez, and there's no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they'll give the river the ashes of a fifth rafter-beautiful Margaret ("Baby") Ballou.
Revered for her powerful female characters, here Lee Smith tells a brilliantly authoritative 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 step away from her Southern Living-style life. Catherine Wilson, a sculptor, is suffocating in her happy third marriage. Anna Todd is a world-famous romance novelist escaping her own tragedies through her fiction. And finally there is Baby, the girl they come to bury-along with their memories of her rebellions and betrayals.
THE LAST GIRLS is wonderful reading. It's also wonderfully revealing of women's lives-of the idea of romance, of the relevance of past to present, of memory and desire.
Here, in a letter of her own, Lee Smith explains how she was inspired to write this celebrated epistolary novel:
Like me, you probably get Christmas letters every year. I read every word and save every letter. Because every Christmas letter is the story of a life, and what story can be more interesting than the story of our lives? Often, it is the story of an entire family. But you also have to read between the lines with Christmas letters. Sometimes, what is not said is even more important than what is on the page.
In The Christmas Letters, I have used this familiar format to illumine the lives, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of three generations of American women. Much of the story of The Christmas Letters is also told through shared recipes. As Mary, my favorite character, says, "I feel as if I have written out my life story in recipes! The Cool Whip and mushroom soup years, the hibachi and fondue period, then the quiche and crepes phase, and now it's these salsa years."
I wrote this little book for the same reason I write to my friends and relatives every holiday--Christmas letters give us a chance to remember and celebrate who we are.
With warmest greetings, Lee Smith
Johnny MacKinnon might be on the verge of losing it all. The ice factory he married into, which he’s run for decades, is facing devastating OSHA fines following a mysterious accident and may have to close. The only hope for Johnny’s livelihood is that someone in the community saw something, but no one seems to be coming forward. He hasn’t spoken to his son Corran back in Scotland since Corran’s heroin addiction finally drove Johnny to the breaking point. And now, after a collapse on the factory floor, it appears Johnny may have a brain tumor. Johnny’s been ordered to take it easy, but in some ways, he thinks, what’s left to lose? This may be his last chance to bridge the gap with Corran—and to have any sort of relationship with the baby granddaughter he’s never met.
Witty and heartbreaking by turns, The Ice House is a vibrant portrait of multifaceted, exquisitely human characters that readers will not soon forget. It firmly establishes Laura Lee Smith as a gifted voice in American fiction.