The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church


The Last Carolina Girl is Megan Church’s debut novel. Set in 1935, Leah Payne is living a happy, simple life in Holden Beach when tragedy strikes, making her an orphan. She is forced to leave the people and town that she loves to live with a foster family in Matthews, N.C.

The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church
The Last Carolina Girl by Meaghan Church is partially set on the NC Coast.

Although the pacing is slow, the book is a surprisingly fast read. I was able to finish it in a couple of afternoons of reading (ironically, on a beach on the NC coast just a few miles away from where the book was set!).

Leah is a great character who immediately commands the reader’s empathy and interest. Tulla, the maid, and Jesse, the son of the people who own the property Leah and her father live on, are also endearing characters.

The book uses classism and attitudes toward those with mental differences as a theme to expose a dark time in North Carolina’s history. It also explores the concept of what family means.

“I guess that’s the thing about coming home; it’s not the home that’s changed, it’s the person coming back who has.”

Meaghan Church, The Last Carolina Girl

With its descriptions of life on the coast and eugenics as a plot point, reading The Last Carolina Girl evoked memories of Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing and Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies. While the storyline is original and is by no means a rip-off of these two works, it did have a familiar feel. I just felt like I’d encountered a story like Leah’s, and something seemed to be missing from the plot. These two feelings kept it from being a five-star read for me.

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