The Last Carolina Girl

A Novel

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Pub Date 28 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 01 Apr 2023
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, Sourcebooks Landmark

Description

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.

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...


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ISBN 9781728257150
PRICE $16.99 (USD)
PAGES 320

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Average rating from 150 members


Featured Reviews

It has been a very long time since a novel made me cry. I actually had to stop at chapter six to compose myself.
Ms. Church writing style in the very beginning brought me in. I did however found some parts dragging and was wanting to finish, but I was drawn back in again.
This novel touches on the cruelty of state eugenics board and the ignorance of society.

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I want to grab Leah and give her the big hug that she deserves!

Leah, a lover of nature and a free spirit, is suddenly orphaned and is sent to be a servant far from her familiar surroundings.

There are some mysteries about her new 'family,' and Leah falls victim to eugenics studies that were taking place during the 1930s. This was a heart wrenching and eye opening story. The author's notes at the end of the book provides more information about the study of eugenics in this era, and Leah's experience was unfortunately far more common that I have realized.

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This was a new author for me . I never read anything from this author before but for the most part I really liked this book. I thought the whole story was amazing. I honestly didn’t want this book to end. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with on the next book they write. I usually judge a book from the cover because for me it shows if it’s going to be interesting or not and I loved the book.

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This was a new author for me . I never read anything from this author before but for the most part I really liked this book. I thought the whole story was amazing. I honestly didn’t want this book to end. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with on the next book they write. I usually judge a book from the cover because for me it shows if it’s going to be interesting or not and I loved the book.

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The Last Carolina Girl is a heart-wrenching look at the history of eugenics and how it applied to young woman deemed "less than". The lead character has experienced great loss (the death of her mother and then her father) despite being only 14 years old. She is forced to leave the only home and friend she's ever known to live with another family far away. Mrs Griffin treats her as a "helpmate", having her live in a poorly constructed shed on the back porch, and help with all house chores. Mr. Griffin remains on the sidelines, unwilling to anger his wife by questioning her actions. Despite becoming close to the other children in the family, her hopes of being treated as a member of the family are continually dashed. The mother is harsh, resentful of her presence, and only concerned with what society thinks of her and her family. She keeps letters from Jesse (best friend), denies Leah the chance to go to school, and is convinced that Leah is promiscuous and simple minded. Unbeknownst to Leah, Mrs. Griffin is actually her Aunt (her Father's sister) and has fought her whole adult life to hide her poor upbringing. Mrs. Griffin gets caught up in the beginning of the eugenics movement by an acquaintance with a Dr. Foster. He is promoting sterilization of young women branded simpleminded. She takes Leah to be sterilized against her will and forever changes her life. Even though Leah eventually is able to return to her "home" with the Barnas family and marries Jesse, she is never able to have children. This book made me sad, angry, and incredulous at the way Leah was treated, but even more so at the truth of sterilizations during that time period.

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3 Stars.
This a beautifully tragic story that deals with the concept of home and what family really is. It also deals with Eugenics and the scars that never heal. What Leah goes through breaks my heart. No 14-year-old should have to through what she goes through. Leah goes through using her mother during childbirth and losing her father at age 14. It leads to staying with a family that does not accept her for who she is and ends with dealing with the consequences of sterilization. Throughout it all, Leah shows such incredible strength. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for the ARC. I look forward to reading more from this author.

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This is a beautifully told story of an orphan girl (Leah) who is sent to live with a family whose matriarch abuses her and subjects her to a procedure that will scar her for the rest of her life. Deprived of an education and her friends left behind in her former life, Leah struggles with the life she now faces. The determination of this young girl is one that the reader will not forget. The beginnings of eugenics is explored in the novel and how this will change Leah. A book that I will suggest for book Clubs and recommend to friends.

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I loved this book so much. Southern fiction is one of my favorites genres and when it's well written, it sticks with you. I enjoy when you can tell the person who wrote it is either from the south, or really did their research. Such was the case for this story.

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The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church was a FIVE STAR read! I absolutely loved this historical fiction novel and am eagerly awaiting the author’s next book. It’s not that often that a book makes me cry real tears but this one had me sobbing. I was also swept up in the story so completely that I lost track of time. If you are a fan of southern fiction and/or historical fiction, you don’t want to miss this.

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.

This was a book where I liked the setting, the writing style, the plot, and the tension…basically everything was done so well that I had no choice but to give it five stars on Goodreads. The only problem with an outstanding book like this is that it inevitably has to come to an end.

Keep your eyes out for it when it’s published on March 7, 2023!

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4.5/5 stars
A beautiful and well-written historical fiction full of depth and emotions.

The writing is amazing with vivid descriptions and incredible character development. I do wish the time-frame of the plot was bigger, we get to see Leah grow for a few years and then the plot is disrupted with the epilogue about her future, which was the reason that it wasn’t a solid 5 stars.

However, this book is fantastic. It’s heartbreaking and thought provoking, with a very well-written character. I loved how nature plays an important role in Leah’s life and how it’s her only constant friend. I went in blind and I would recommend readers to do the same, it gives a different perspective of the plot and it makes it even more immersive. My heart was breaking from the very first chapter but I found this story very important and one I wasn’t very aware of.

It’s a story of pain, loss, heartbreak and the struggles of that time and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction. I would also recommend reading the Author’s Note since it gives the book so much more meaning and information about this story.

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the book centers around 14 year old Leah in the 1930's. she has to go to foster care after her father dies. really enjoyed this story.

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What a powerful novel! The Last Carolina Girl is a historical fiction/general fiction novel that will definitely stay with me. Set in the mid 1930’s, this coming-of-age tale centers around Leah Payne. At the age of 14, Leah finds herself all alone when her father unexpectedly passes away. From that point, Leah goes into foster care which ultimately forces her to grow up way faster than an average 14 year old ever should have to.

I was so emotionally invested in this novel! I was completely captivated from page one and found Meagan Church create a unforgettable storyline! The characters are well-developed and will pull at every single one of your heartstrings! The Last Carolina is the first book I have read from Meagan Church, but most certainly won’t be my last!

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I've read a few emotional books in my time. Some that really kept me weeping all the way through. This is one of them. This is emotional on a whole new level though. I learned a few things while reading this book. A few things that we all should know and prevent from ever happening again.

This is fourteen year old Leah Payne's story. It's told with her voice. Her thoughts and her feelings. Her pain. Her losses. Her heart. It will absolutely break your heart. The sad thing is that this happened in this country. Way to many times. I thought other countries were bad trying to create the perfect race. While this is not in so many words about creating the perfect race, according to the people who did this, it actually is. Using Eugenics to keep anyone from having a child. To sterilize women. To sterilize a child. It is beyond cruel. It's inhumane. No one has the right to decide who is not smart enough to have a child. Who is not good enough. It's just wrong on so many levels. This book will take you there and many more places.

Leah was living her life with her daddy in North Carolina. Going about her daily life happy and content. While they were basically poor they did have a lot. They had each other. They had a roof over their heads and her daddy had a job. Yes they lived on the Barnas' property but Leah's daddy worked for them. She played with their son Jesse. Went to school with him. He was her best friend. Her mother died after she gave birth to her. She bled to death. Her daddy raised her and taught her to be a good child but also let her experience freedom. Be alive and happy. Until the unthinkable happened. Then she had to go live with a foster family. But she didn't have any idea what she was in store for. Being a "helpmate" instead of a typical foster child. The Griffins were a typical family. They had money and a nice life. Three children and a home. Plenty of food and each other.

Leah goes through so much from Mrs Griffin. The woman is cruel. Evil mean. She puts Leah in what can only be described as a closet out back with room only for a bed and dresser. One tiny window. All Leah is there for is to cook, clean and help with the youngest child. Leah is a hard worker and only wants a family. To be accepted. She also wants to go back home. She puts up with physical and mental abuse from Mrs Griffin. While the other children seem to love her, especially the youngest, Leah is not at all happy. She tries so hard to please this woman. The final straw comes when she over hears Mrs Griffin and another snooty woman taking at the cotillion. She finds out that the woman her her sterilized.

This story takes you on a very emotional ride. Through so many tears. The things this teenage girl goes through is so sad. What makes it worse is it is based on an actual event. This author's aunt. You will learn about her in the "Author's Note" at the end. It's heartbreaking what happened and in some cases it seems still happens. This book is well researched so don't think it's not real. That it never happened. It did. It needs to never happen again. No matter what.

Quotes that hit me:
'ALL I HAD LEFT IN ALL THE WORLD WAS MY QUILT AND THE PICTURE I'D TAKEN FROM THE DRESSER BEFORE WE'D WALKED OUT THE DOOR THAT MORNING.'

'THE THING ABOUT KIDS. ADULTS ALWAYS TRY TO TELL THEM TO GROW UP, ACT THEIR AGE, THAT THERE'S NO SENSE IN CRYING. BUT KIDS KNOW THAT SOMETIMES THE ONLY THING TO DO IS LET THE TEARS WASH OUT OF YOU. SOMETIMES TEARS ARE THE ONLY WORDS WORTH SHARING."

Yes, this is a very emotional story. It does have a couple of very sweet parts and a couple of chuckles but overall it's based on actual events and it's heartbreaking. It's horrible. It's one you need to read.

Publishes March 28th of this year.

Thank you #NetGalley, #MeaganChurch, #SourceBooksLandmark, for this ARC. This is my own true thoughts about this story.

Five huge stars and a very high recommendation. Read it with a new box of Kleenex. You will need them.

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Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for this eARC.

The Last Carolina Girl was so beautiful and heartbreaking.

Sometimes it's the story and sometimes the characters and this time it was both. My heart ached for Leah. But Mary Ann's innocence had my ♥
Im the beginning, I found the book to be a bit slow but it soon picked up pace and I didn't want to put it down.

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The Last Carolina Girl is hauntingly beautiful and grabbed me from the first page. What happened to Leah made my own blood boil and to hear this story was inspired by a real person made my heart weep. While a complex story with a lot of moving pieces, I finished it in a single day. I simply didn’t want to put it down.

Thank you so much for access to the ARC!

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I can't remember the last time I was so consumed by a book! I simply could not put this one down. I was immediately taken in by Leah's heart breaking story. She was a dreamer who wanted nothing more than to live by the ocean with people she loved. Learning about some of the terrifying parts of America's history is heart breaking. We need books like this to help us never forget our past so it doesn't repeat itself.

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An emotional tale of a young woman who loses everything when her father dies unexpectedly but claws her way back. Leah is 14 in 1935, her mother is dead, and her life revolves around her father, their cabin, and her friend Jesse, the son of her father's employer the Barmas. She struggles in school and she has what she calls flashes, likely a form of epilepsy. And then her father is killed, her cabin is destroyed by a falling tree, and the Barmas decide she should go to the Griffin family. Life there is a shock- she's expected to be a "helper," essentially unpaid household labor, a situation which is both distressing and frightening. And then Mrs Griffin brings Dr. Foster, a proponent and practicianer of eugenics home. You will root for Leah, who is desperate to escape and return to Jesse. There's a big secret here which I didn't guess as well as (to be honest) one unanswered question about the Griffin family. Church is a good storyteller who pulls you into Leah's world, both as she places shells around her parents' graves and as she toils at the Griffins. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. It's a very good read and don't miss the afterword.

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Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel.

This began as a slow read for me but the last 40% was amazing! Completely worth every moment. The fact that this is all rooted in a sad portion of American history eerily similar to Naziism, or maybe theirs is similar to ours? Amazing read! Broke my heart in places. Filled me with hope in the end.

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This was a powerful book⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. It’s a story of such enormous loss and triumph. You will definitely feel for the main character and shake your head as you hope for Leah to have a happy ending to her story. I recommend the read👏🏻.

Leah Payne dreams of living on the beach one day. At fourteen, her life is simple and happy but is suddenly turned upside down when she is orphaned.

After her father dies in an accident, Leah is separated for her friend, Jesse, and the only home she’s known in coastal, NC. She’s sent to live with a family of strangers by child services. The family is well off and Leah hopes she will have a real family with them. Unfortunately, it’s not meant to be.

Leah is expected to be a helpmate in the home. She makes friends with the other children, but Mrs. Griffin doesn’t like Leah much. Why? As she longs to return to her childhood home and Jesse, Mrs. Griffin has other plans for Leah. Will she be reunited with her childhood friend?

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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While this story was a slow burn start for me. When it picked up. IT PICKED UP, and I was hooked. The authors writing was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions she put forward for us readers to truly see what was happening. One of the big concepts in this story is eugenics and the role it has played in history for sterilizing marginalized groups of people that didn’t fit society’s superior guidelines. I love Leah, and my heart was in deep for her through this story.

So this also reminded me a bit of the book I read Children on the Hill which also had to do with eugenics. So The Last Carolina Girl is a heartbreaking but also necessary shed of light into this part of history. I would definitely recommend.
I will post to social media within the week.

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THE LAST CAROLINA GIRL by Meagan Church is an historical novel set in the 1930s. 14 year old Leah lives with her father, a handyman, who teaches her to love nature especially the sea. Her life is upended when he dies. Leah situation goes from bad to worse when she is sent to live with a family she doesn’t know. She is used as a servant and no longer allowed to attend school. Leah’s heartbreaking story sheds light on a shameful period in US history, eugenics programs that allowed the forced sterilization of girls and women deemed socially, mentally or physically deficient. Leah’s hardships had me crying. Her fortitude had me cheering for her. I will not soon forget this admirable character.

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For Leah Payne, life is simple: she goes to school and she enjoys her time at home with her father. A lumberjack by trade, when her father is killed in an accident, she is uprooted from everything she knows. Just fourteen years old, she is forced to live with a foster family, The Griffins. The lady of the house, Mrs. Griffin, is cold, mean and demanding. While serving as the family’s helpmate, she is introduced to a doctor studying eugenics. What happens next is truly horrifying and evil.

I picked up this book because I had seen it compared to Where the Crawdads Sing, which I loved. Though quite different, it still had the same type of imagery, of nature and enjoying the little things in life. My heart broke for Leah as she tried to navigate a life away from all she knew, with someone who hated her just for existing. In a historical aspect, I had no idea that there was such a eugenics movement in the United States. It was disgusting and frightening to read Leah’s story, and even more so to learn part of it was based on true events. The author provided a note at the end, explaining her inspiration for writing this book. It’s not an easy story to read, but it’s important that it be told. This one will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Netgalley, Meagan Church and Sourcebooks for the ARC! “The Last Carolina Girl” will be released March 7.

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