My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
Unabridged, 8 hr. 55 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Cassandra Campbell (Narrator)
June 21, 2016
Source: Received download code for review from publisher
It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.
A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.
As Deb and Keller’s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond’s phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. My Last Continent is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes—a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences.I know this isn’t my usual reviewing genre, but I just loved this book SO much that I just had to try to put it into words and share with you all so you can enjoy it yourself. This is a contemporary set story with romantic elements, and while the greater story arc does revolve around the relationship between two characters, it didn’t read like your typical romance – you know where you know there will be a happily ever after no matter what and the wooing and pursuit of the other person. I didn’t even realize it was categorized as a romance when I selected this title, I was simply excited about the vastly different setting of Antarctica and was drawn in by the prospect of the looming disaster of a ship sinking.
One of the things you will notice right from the start is that it is not told in a linear nature, but rather each chapter is a point in time relative to the sinking of the Australis (ie. 5 months before the sinking, 3 days before the sinking). You may jump for a point in Deb’s life 10 years before the sinking to 5 hours before the sinking in the next chapter and then back to 2 years before. While I can sometimes find this style of jumping all over the timeline to be confusing, especially if they just title the chapters with dates, this worked here. I was easily able to follow where Deb was in her life and how it built upon what she would be experiencing the closer be get to the crash or why she made certain choices that she did.
For a place that I have certainly never been anywhere near (and not experienced on the page either), Raymond brought the continent of Antarctica to vivid life. It is not a friendly place to be at all; the weather changes in an instant and you are taking your life in your hands simply traveling there. The descriptions of glacial ice, snow storms, and the frigid nature of just daily life were palpable and I was transported there within just a few pages. If the author has never travelled there I would tell you that I didn’t believe it. I think part of the intrigue for this story was simply just how exotic the setting was for me.
As to what this book is about, it’s about so many different things that it is hard to describe. The overarching story arc is the relationship between Deb and Keller and how that’s affected by their work in Antarctica and when they are apart, and don’t have that place to connect them, how their relationship changes. Scaled down a bit is the story of the changing environment of Antarctica seen through the perspective of the wildlife that lives there. Deb and Keller are researchers and are studying penguin colonies that call this frigid land home. You get a lot of information about the wildlife, but it never felt like an infodump or being too preachy about protecting the environment (even though that is there too). There are also some smaller storylines involving some of the passengers and crewmembers on the ship that Deb works from, which become important at times.
I’m going to warn you that this story will pull at your heartstrings and probably require a tissue or two. It’s one of the best books I have read recently and I would recommend it far and wide.
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Also by Midge Raymond:
Forgetting English (short story collection)
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