When I first discussed reading and potentially reviewing The Last of the Pascagoula with its author, Rebecca Meredith, I didn’t know what a Pascagoula was. What I did know was that this sounded like a wonderful concept for a novel. And it definitely lived up to its concept. This is a great story of the best of childhood friends who bond through their differences from others and their similarities to each other. People of all ages can relate to The Last of the Pascagoula for a lot of reasons but partially because it traces friends from high school years through middle age.
Kate Lynn lives in relative isolation on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her younger sister, Martha, who lives in a world of her own. Martha is a single-minded artist who only paints and constructs artwork of one thing, a small black winged dog and its adventures. Martha takes any and every object that strikes her fancy to put into her artwork – anything that isn’t tied down, and a few things that are. She’s one of those outsider artists whose work has captured the attention of collectors everywhere, thanks to Kate Lynn’s work on her behalf.
“Martha…went upstairs to her studio and closed the door. I could hear her pounding away with her hammer, the sound muffled by the burlap bag in which she put glass and pottery and anything that might fly around. She had a lot of sense about such things, even though she walked around naked unless I made her get dressed, forgot to eat unless I insisted, and was likely to steal or tear apart anything she might suddenly take a liking to and incorporate it into whatever artwork she was making.”
Kate Lynn took over Martha’s care when her father passed away, and has become more and more isolated since then. She can’t see any other way to live, given the way Martha is. She’s about as far as she could get from Pascagoula, Mississippi, but that’s all about to change. She receives a package from Tom, one of her two closest friends in high school. He needs her badly and he doesn’t have time for her excuses. For every excuse she makes, he finds a way around it. Bottom line: None of her reasons for not being able to be there for him are acceptable, even to her. Not even the storm that will become Katrina can keep this reunion from happening – it’s too urgent.
“I need you because of who you are, and who we were when we were best friends. Because of why we were best friends. Because I’m about to kill myself, and I need your help to do it.”
And this reconnection starts her reliving memories of those high school days several decades ago when they found each other and bonded over their isolation and differences from everyone else – back when Martha was still a quasi-normal kid.
“I always believed that if I hadn’t met Tom Carmody when I did, I wouldn’t have made it out of Pascagoula, Mississippi alive.”
It’s the mid-1960’s. Kate Lynn’s mother has had cancer for a very long time and Kate Lynn has been the person designated to take care of her. That’s a huge burden for a child to take on. Her mother dies when Kate Lynn is 15 years old. Her dad, who’s in the Air Force, can’t cope and volunteers to deploy to Vietnam, leaving Kate Lynn and her younger sister to live with their grandparents in a trailer park in Pascagoula. Kate Lynn works for her grandparents in their diner when she isn’t going to school and taking care of Martha, who has regressed and become very withdrawn since their mother died.
The owners of the trailer park are the Carmodys, whose oldest son has been horribly injured in Vietnam. Mrs. Carmody now devotes her entire life to taking care of him 24/7. Their younger son, Tom, who is Kate’s age, is left to his own devices. He and Kate immediately bond. They are two teenagers old beyond their years because of the tragedies that have stricken their families. They also both feel like disappointments to their families for different reasons.
“Like me, Tom Carmody was an orphan of sorts, although his parents were both alive and living under the same roof he did. But his home situation had made of Tom a sort of beautiful starveling, a well-groomed, intelligent boy my age who was likely to show up at your house for supper and stay until people began to yawn and hint that tomorrow was sure going to be starting early and there were baths to take before bed.”
The third person in this merry band of teen outsiders is Clare Doucette. Her family is the most normal of the three but it is still different from most families in Pascagoula, Mississippi because they are extremely liberal and her father works diligently on various liberal causes, including civil rights, in a very outspoken way that doesn’t sit well with the conservative politics of the 1960’s Deep South.
“Tom, who introduced us on my first day of high school life in Pascagoula, even said sometimes that he wished he never had, because if he made me talk, Claire made me laugh. It didn’t hurt that the Doucettes were people you tell stories about years later and everyone believes you are an A-1 liar, because these things couldn’t possibly be true.”
I’ve only touched on the bare bones of The Last of the Pascagoula but I’ve decided to not give more away because you really need to experience its depth and complexity for yourself. I’ll just say that these three friends become a quasi-family of their own, bonding in a way that will prove to be life saving for them all and will produce a life-long bond. Their adventures as teens had me laughing, crying and reliving my own “daring” teen escapades. Their coming together again as adults who are re-bonding through adversity was heartwarming and touching. It was wonderful to see how each of them had grown as adults and reaffirming to see that some things never change.
Rebecca Meredith has written a masterful novel in The Last of the Pascagoula. To say I love this story is just not saying enough. There are very few books that I read more than once but this is going to be one of them.
I felt like I had always known these people. They became my friends and I didn’t want to let them go when the story ended. Anyone who ever felt like they were different as a teen will relate very well to this story, as will anyone who bonded so closely to childhood friends that they’ve stayed friends no matter the distance or circumstances. I highly recommend this novel, and one lucky reader is going to win a copy! WooHoo!
The Last of the Pascagoula was released in August, 2011, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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One lucky reader will receive a copy of The Last of the Pascagoula by Rebecca Meredith!
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