Early Reviews 

“The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure reminded me of why I started reading in the first place—to be enchanted, to be carried away from my world and dropped into a world more vivid and incandescent. Norma Watkins casts her spell with exquisite sentences and unerring, evocative details. She is a writer of inordinate compassion and formidable intelligence. This unsparing and unsentimental memoir documents a woman’s struggle for independence over the course of her lifetime and took great moral courage and ferocious honesty to write. And let me add that this book so much more than personal memoir. It is an eye on history. Norma Watkins puts us there at the white hot center of the struggle for racial equality in Jackson, Mississippi, in the turbulent fifties and sixties.”
—John Dufresne, Louisiana Power & Light

“What a book! What a woman! and what a life she has led....touching upon all the major issues of our time. I was riveted from start to finish. Brave, honest, and open, Norma Watkins is a born writer through and through. The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure is an absolute must-read for all Southern women----and men, too---as she shines a light into some of the darkest, most secret and sacred areas of our culture. This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read.”

—Lee Smith, Fair and Tender Ladies

“Norma Watkins, a rare, brave and entrancing human being, has written a uniquely Mississippi story about coming to terms with family, state and tumultuous times--and discovering herself in the process. It is a great read, pure and simple.”

—Hodding Carter III

“The Last Resort is a page-turner. I didn’t want to put it down. The prose is vivid, dramatic, and occasionally lyrical. The credible details and created dialogue give a novelistic presence to this memoir. There is a thematic continuity to the whole, and the tone is consistent throughout—maintaining the voice of the authoring persona as she remembers, recounts, interprets, reflects and contemplates her past. . . . It often reminds me of Mary Karr’s highly successful The Liar’s Club. . . . In fact, I found it more engaging than Stockett’s The Help—and revealing of a comparable place and time in Mississippi social history.”

—Peggy Prenshaw, Conversations with Eudora Welty

“Norma Watkins takes her readers through one woman’s journey toward understanding herself and the Mississippi in which she grew up. It is a soul-searching work, one with which many women will identify.”

—Kay Mills, author of This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

"The Last Resort is just ass-kickingly good storytelling. It's The Help, only everything's true and it's written better, too.
    When Norma's father joined the Navy during WWII, her mother took the kids home to Allison's Wells, the sprawling old family hotel run by an aunt. Affluent white families would spend summers there, "taking the cure": eight glasses a day of the sulfurous mineral water from the property's famous wells. Norma and her little sister grew up surrounded by a bigotry that was brutal yet polite, lovingly raised by black women until they turned twelve and were pushed away to an acceptable distance. Much of the book takes place during these childhood years, and though the story includes heartbreak, it's told with such wit, insight, and humor that it's pure plain fun to read.
    The tension in this memoir grows as Norma leaves childhood, marries and finds herself with four young children, a husband she likes but doesn't particularly love, and ideas about integration and equality that make her quietly enraged yet frightened, an outcast in her Junior League circle of friends and family. The action she takes to resolve this conflict is brave, sad, and inspiring.
    I just hope that readers find this university-press, small-print-run gem. Then maybe Penguin can pick up the paperback rights and make it a bestseller!”
—Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, CA (from Goodreads)

Interior Blurbs

“What a miracle of time travel this memoir is! With the deliciously specific recall of a loving, inquisitive child, Norma Watkins places us inside the Mississippi in which she grew up, yet she exposes at the same time the suppressions and silences that held her world in place. Watkins writes with the irresistible honesty that led her to become the woman who couldn’t be quiet anymore.”

—Lynne Barrett, author of Magpies and The Secret Names of Women

“Norma Watkins’s The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure joins the esteemed ranks of Carson McCullers and Harper Lee. By going through the eyes of the perfect spy, that most marginal of creatures, a young female child, to nail the complexities, hypocrisy, and even dangers in the adult world, Watkins winds up giving her readers a gift of enduring beauty. In language that is stunningly simple yet cogent, the author brings a vanished universe, filled with inequities and passions and good and bad intentions, back to life. Her exacting gaze spares no one, least of all herself. I like memoirs in general, but I adored this memoir in particular: the author is a wise, wry, generous narrator of her journey through the old South to a new world.”

—Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the memoir Uphill Walkers

“The Last Resort is an affectionately searing memoir, the story of one woman’s coming to consciousness in mid-century Mississippi.”

—Eric Etheridge, author of Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders 

“A haunting, beautiful memoir. With the power of a Eudora Welty short story, Norma Watkins reveals intimate details of family and race that shaped her childhood and led to her rebellion from those same worlds. The Last Resort is a stunning work of courage that touches the reader’s heart in a gripping, unforgettable way.”

—William Ferris, Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Unflinching, unsentimental and sly, The Last Resort takes us back to the South that was, recreating that place and time with marvelous wit and insight. Norma Watkins plays no favorites and she calls it right every time.”
—Kat Meads, author of Born Southern and Restless

“In this unflinchingly honest portrayal of personal, spiritual, and political awakening, Norma Watkins brings a rich, rounded presence to a vast array of characters—black and white, young and old—and to a time that, though long past, still resonates behind our own. Gifted with an astounding memory and rare talent for telling detail, Watkins brings many lives to vivid revelation here, and in doing so renders an entire time and place in indelible, resonant detail. Her understanding of character is pitch-perfect, and her devastating self-portrait is both affectionate and withering. The Last Resort is a high achievement: a memoir that manages to illuminate a moment in history. It does so with grace, incisive humor, and affection for every one of its wide array of fascinating characters. I’ve never before read anything quite like it.”

—Michael Hettich, author of Like Happiness and Flock and Shadow: New and Selected Poems

“With The Last Resort, Norma Watkins has crafted an exquisite testament to a brave and memorable life—here is the very map that traces the path from an other-era South into the modern day. A moving and illuminating book.”

—Les Standiford, author of Last Train to Paradise and Bringing Adam Home  Review_Herald-Tribune.html


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Norma Watkins' memoir The Last Resort got a great mention in The New York Review of Books, Dec. 18, 2014. Reviewing The Culinary Imagination, Patricia Storace writes:

"Food is at the center of this genre of memoir because it is an integral part of another story. Norma Watkins's powerful The Last Resort, for example, studies food because the kitchen of her family's Mississippi hotel in the segregated South is a concentration of pleasure and cruelty, of generosity and injustice, when black people cooked for white people but could never eat with them, or as well."