On a bright June day in 1965, a dozen girls - classmates at a Blue Ridge women's college - launch a ramshackle raft on a trip down the Mississippi. Their journey, inspired by Huckleberry Finn, is duly reported in the Paducah, Kentucky newspaper. Thirty-five years later, four of the "girls" reunite to cruise the river again. This time, it's on the luxury steamboat The Belle of Natchez and there's no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they'll give the River the ashes of a fifth rafter: beautiful Margaret ("Baby") Ballou. Harriet Holding is a hesitant teacher who never married. Courtney Gray yearns to step away from her Southern Living-style life. Catherine Wilson, a sculptor, is a world-famous romance novelist who escapes her personal tragedies through her fiction. And finally, there's "Baby", the girl they have come to bury - along with their memories of her rebellions and betrayals. Beloved throughout the South for her powerful female characters, author Lee Smith tells a rich, imaginative story about the nature of romance, the relationship between life and fiction, the relevance of the past to the present, and the unexpected course of women's lives.
©2002 Lee Smith; (P)2002 HighBridge Company