My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is an expedition that leaves you feeling the biting cold as it burns the skin and takes the breath away from naturalists like Deb Gardner. Antarctica is a deeply mysterious place, one that travelers may have on their bucket list because they can see icebergs cleaving and wildlife free from human interruption. This environment, however, is not forgiving and many times those who travel there — even for research — can lose parts of themselves or their lives even if they are highly trained.
“The end of the world, the beginning of everything.” (pg. 14 ARC)
Raymond has crafted a novel that takes the harshness of the frozen wasteland and reweaves it into a place of solace for Gardner, a researcher whose family life is not close-knit and who feels closer to the penguins she observes than to people. Her narrative shifts backwards and forwards in time, sometimes a few months and sometimes by a few decades, but readers never leave Deb’s world view. She pushes you to care for the animals and their world, even as it crumbles around them and even as a researcher she is polluting its pristine nature. The dichotomy of her work is never lost on the reader — learn more about their environment and the effects of humanity upon it by being there and observing but through the act of observing, you disrupt the natural way of things (even if only for a few months).
“I feel his proximity like an electric current, a frayed wire, loose and dangerous.” (pg. 93 ARC)
The stakes become even higher when Deb finds that she feels more at home with fellow naturalist Keller Sullivan, a man who knew little until she reluctantly trained him. The nature of their work separates them more than it brings them together, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere romance. There are deeper layers — the surface slush must be swept aside.
“But nature has a way of surprising us, of overpowering us, of reminding us that, no matter what we believe and no matter how hard we try, we’re not in control after all.” (pg. 140 ARC)
Sometimes the last continent may be a return to the one you abandoned long ago. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is engaging and deeply moving. It’s message is clear; we are not so far evolved from our animal brethren and even if we were, we all still need the same planet to build families and to survive.
About the Author:
Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.
Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers, Seattle’s Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.
Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.