The Last Days of California

The Last Days of California

by Mary Miller
4.2 14

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The Last Days of California by Mary Miller

“[A] terrific first novel. . . . Why worry about labeling a book this good? Just read it.”—Laurie Muchnick, New York Times Book Review

Jess is fifteen years old and waiting for the world to end. Her evangelical father has packed up the family to drive west to California, hoping to save as many souls as possible before the Second Coming. With her long-suffering mother and rebellious (and secretly pregnant) sister, Jess hands out tracts to nonbelievers at every rest stop, Waffle House, and gas station along the way. As Jess’s belief frays, her teenage myopia evolves into awareness about her fracturing family. Selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover pick and an Indie Next pick, Mary Miller’s radiant debut novel reinvigorates the literary road-trip story with wry vulnerability and savage charm.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871407795
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 01/13/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 38,322
File size: 814 KB

About the Author

Mary Miller is the author of The Last Days of California and the short story collection Big World. She is a former James A. Michener Fellow in Fiction and John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. She lives in Jackson.

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The Last Days of California: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
WyattSparks More than 1 year ago
Few books offer so much wit, complexity, and ambiguity.  Deep empathy for her characters and the world at large on every page. Also highly recommend Miller's book of short stories out with Hobart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read so far in 2014. I didn't know what to expect when I first picked it up. I knew the plot contained references to an apocalyptic scenario of some kind, and that usually means zombies and nuclear explosions and such. However, Miller takes a more personal and interesting approach to the subject, following a religious family on a road trip across the country as they attempt to reach California before the fire and brimstone hit the fan. The narrator is a young girl who is struggling with her faith and feelings of sexual awakening. Every thought in her head is hilarious and heartbreaking. The family is extremely flawed, and as the road trip progresses, the conflicts escalate. There are no zombies or nuclear explosions. This is not your typical dystopian apocalypse story--it's something better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read in a long time. The family at the center of the story is heartbreakingly real, especially the father. If you are or have been an adolescent you will see yourself in these characters. The writing is neat and urgent, lots of memorable images. The end was surprising, satisfying, and one you don't see coming. Loved every page of it. Recommend to anyone with a beating heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fresh air in book form, this little diddy will make you glad that books still exist. Pick it up for a beach read or lay by your computer when you the screen stops making sense; even punctured by distraction, you'll finish it in no time....and you'll be glad you did. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Miller packs quiet insight into lives that seem at first to be quotidian, but open up with vast complexities in everyday spaces. Miller crafts stories of desperate people with such care that one cannot help but be both with them and apart, as if seeing a fire burn too brightly. I I'ts not often that I finish a book in just a couple of days, but this thing had me all the way. Mary's sentences turn beautifully, her insights flare like supernovas, and there is great humor in this tale. 
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Miller is an exceptional writer and storyteller. I read this book in two long sittings and loved every page. Can't wait for her next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BarrettBloom More than 1 year ago
When I read the reviews for The Last Days of California, I expected a coming-of-age story, but to reduce this clever, sometimes dark and often tender novel to a 'coming-of-age' story, is to do it a disservice. In Jess and her apocalypse-hungry parents and just-pregnant prettier sister Elise, Mary Miller slyly reminds us of the keen appetites and yearnings we all share -- for love, for adulation, for the whole array of American fast food, for money, for sex, for salvation, and even for damnation.  On their road trip from Montgomery to destinations west, in what their father is convinced are the last days before the rapture, Jess and Elise travel their own backseat journey. But their compass points toward adventure, not the end times. Yes, there are comic and sexual episodes.  And yes, there are mishaps, flat tires, swindles, a flea market, a casino--and death--along the way. But the plot is only one pleasure. Seeing life via Jess holds as many satisfactions. Because they're in high school, Jess and Elise waver between youth and adulthood. They share a hotel bed like small children, where Jess notes, Elise was "so close that she could only look into one of my eyes at a time." Jess is a fond younger sister, who doesn't want to go to heaven if Elise won't be there -- she'd rather chance a post-Armageddon earth overrun with criminals intent on stealing their food and guns. Jess ruminates that Elise, "was the only skinny one, and I was glad for it because I didn't want our whole family to be overweight--it would seem like a fundamental flaw, like something we'd never overcome." Under a bleach-scented motel sheet she recalls a tv show about pests. "The family with bedbugs had closed them up in a suitcase and carried them home from a motel just like this one. The bugs were hard and adapted to survive, moving up and down the stairs on the children's stuffed animals." And she's a casual but cunning observer. Of her parents: "My mother put a hand on the back of his neck and told him he was doing a good job, which she did when he was doing a bad job." And of her mother: "She seemed like a nice person, doing all the nice things nice people did....but when one of her best friends died, she hadn't even seemed sad about it." The real destination in this utterly satisfying story is nowhere near California--it's an interior journey, and you'll be richly rewarded if you ride there with Jess.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lovely novel to add to the bildungsroman genre, and one that folks who label themselves literary and folks who just want a good story will enjoy equally. Beautiful, finely drawn characters.  Nobody can beat Mary Miller in those diamond-bursts of insight, either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story but too expensive for 148 pages!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was like one long chapter..of a ridiculous story.I finished it because I kept waiting for..something..anything.It was tedious.