Summary: Thirteen year-old Meg Christie wants to be a pilot. Unfortunately she lives in 1940s Cape Breton Island where women are expected to get married, have children and keep house while their men work in the coal mines. Inspired by Amelia Earhart and a chance encounter with Beryl Markham, Meg pushes the boundaries of her small town with her dreams, encouraged by her older cousin Caleb and her teacher Miss MacKinnon. When Caleb enlists to fight in WWII, however, Meg is forced to reconsider her dreams in the face of having to take care of her family.
Number of Pages: 169
Age Range: 13-16
Review: As you can see from the number of quotes I’ve included for Last Chance Bay, I like the way Anne Laurel Carter puts things. Carter takes Meg Christie, a young girl in her early teens, and creates a feisty, out-spoken character a reader can connect with no matter what their age. Meg is not afraid to stand up for her dreams and what is right, even though both might be unpopular in the town where she lives.
An inspiring and thoughtful read, Carter takes the lives of workers in the coal mine and contrasts them with the life of an ambitious girl in a traditional town. Both are looking for freedom from difficult circumstances. The story of the pit ponies who work in the mine was especially heart-rending, as I honestly didn’t know ponies worked in coal mines before I read this book. I almost cried when Pangaea had to go back down into the mine after a week up top, and was sad that Meg offered him hope that she knew was false.
Watching Meg grow from a relatively immature girl in love with her older cousin to a mature young woman able to accept the deferment of her dreams for the good of her family was powerful. What I liked best though was Carter finding a way to end the story on a hopeful note, making me believe that maybe, just maybe, Pangaea would find his way to freedom outside of the mine just as Meg found her way to accomplishing her dreams with Caleb’s unexpected help.
I already want to read this book again, it was that good. Recommended for early to mid teens because of Meg’s age, but I think adults will enjoy it too.
“‘From what I gather, I’m sure I’m nothing like your other teachers. If you learn one thing from me, it will be the spelling of encouragement. Buried within that word is the key to life.'” – Miss MacKinnon from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, pages 20-21
“‘Like it?’ He laughed but looked away. ‘It’s not a place you like. I like the men. And I don’t mind hard work. But the mine? It’s not what I’d thought. Imagine the darkest night when there’re no stars or moon . . . You have to control the panic that starts. Maybe it’s like being blind. No. I think it’s worse. Down there it’s not only dark, it’s under the earth and sky. It’s not our world. It’s suffocating … a suffocating dark.'” – Caleb from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 39
“The beginning of June 1944 and the sun felt like an older cousin you had a big, stupid crush on. It shone warm and close, so close you had to warn yourself it would burn you alive if you dared to touch it.” – Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 52
“‘Blasphemy!’ Mr. McArthur roared. His face turned brighter than the sun setting behind the tall pines. ‘The world was created in seven days. Just the way it is. What kind of nonsense is that agnostic science-worshipper of a woman feeding you kids? Education from that bit of skirt is going to rot your brains, mark my words. Make you unfit for community and family and church. Might as well send you off to Toronto right now and be done with it.’ His angry red face glared at me, daring me to defy what he declared was right.
I narrowed my eyes. How dare he criticize Miss MacKinnon! ‘I’m dying to see Toronto.'” – conversation between Mr. McArthur and Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, pages 60-61
“Cripes! She sounded as if she believed women were responsible for D-Day! Keep the home fires burning, knit socks, and you too can push back the Third Reich. How could anyone in her right mind compare letter-writing and knitting with the terror of a battle, with being shot at and watching the corpses pile up around you?” – Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, pages 98-99
“I looked at Miss MacKinnon and finally understood why she made my mother uncomfortable. There was no man beside her. She worked outside the home and spoke her own mind.” – Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 101
“Up until now I hadn’t understood why passion made a person suffer. I was beginning to understand it now, how it crept up on you, a surprise attack, just before it swallowed your heart whole. Miss MacKinnon had stood up for what she believed in, and Last Chance Bay was going to make her suffer.” – Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 122
“I felt as if a bomb had gone off in front of me and ripped off my chest. It wasn’t mine that got him. It wasn’t the tuberculosis. It was the war.” – Meg from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 147
“‘I know what you’re afraid of,’ I whispered in his ear. ‘That dark place. I don’t blame you one bit. I wouldn’t want to go back there either.’
I hugged him tight, forcing my eyes to stay dry. ‘You’re got to go, Pangaea. There’s no other way. But you’ll be free one day. You just have to keep hoping you’ll be free.'” – Meg talking to Pangaea, the pit pony from Last Chance Bay by Anne Laurel Carter, page 152