Novel

THE LAST CAROLINA GIRL

Available March 7, 2023 | Pre-order Now

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.

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Praise for THE LAST CAROLINA GIRL

Fans of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and BEFORE WE WERE YOURS will find much to love in this evocative and thought-provoking debut. Church reaches into a shameful and little-known pocket of the past to give us a heroine who is plucky, tender, and determined to fight for her autonomy and dignity against insurmountable odds. This book will change the way you feel about the simple question of “Where is home?”

– Kim Wright, author of LAST RIDE TO GRACELAND

This spirited, coming-of-age debut whisked me straight to the heart of the Carolinas in the 1930s. I couldn’t tear myself away from Leah’s journey, from the piney, isolated woods of her childhood, to an often bewildering life in the foreign world of the suburbs, where appearances are everything. Church so beautifully interweaves the connections between Leah’s deeply-sunk roots in the rural South with her search for belonging and her bravery in the face of unspeakable loss. This is a story that will stay with me; I knew little about the eugenics programs that had taken hold in American culture in that time period and Church’s tale left me wanting to research and understand more of this broken, devastating piece of America’s history. 

— Lisa DeSelm, author of THE PUPPETMASTER’S APPRENTICE