The Last Days of California: A Novel

The Last Days of California: A Novel

Mary Miller

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0871408414

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“[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.

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her feet in my lap and told me to rub. “Why? Are they swollen?” I asked, fingering one of her smooth, red toenails. She punched me in the arm so hard I’d probably have a bruise in the morning. I closed my eyes. When I saw the lightning flash through my eyelids, I counted the seconds until thunder. After a while, the rain slacked and our father pulled back onto the road, but it was the same as before: nothing but brake lights and glimpses of white line. “It’s hard to believe Noah was the only

spread off the bed closest to the bathroom. It was smooth and silky on top but pilled underneath. I peeled back the top sheet and looked for the short black hairs that were often woven into the thread. I didn’t see any so I got in and pulled the sheet up to my chin. It smelled clean, like bleach, and I thought of a show I’d seen about pests people couldn’t get rid of. 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

another with no turn. I picked up my mother’s hand. I didn’t know what to do with it once I had it, so I examined it for signs of aging. It didn’t look too old. The bones felt nice under the skin. I turned it over and traced her head line, her heart line; her life line was weak, tapering off mid-palm. “Do you miss being Catholic?” I asked. “God doesn’t care where you worship him as long as you go to church.” “But Catholics are different.” “They’re Christians,” she said, “same as us.” “Dad

Marshall hasn’t given away any of his money,” Elise said as our car began to veer off the road again. “Dad,” I said. He yanked it so hard we went into the other lane. “It would be a nice gesture, don’t you think?” she asked. “It would be a nice gesture,” I agreed. “A lot of people gave their money away—the Ultcheys and the Smiths.” “And the Sellers,” Elise said. Dan was a Sellers. If the rapture didn’t happen, Dan was going to be poor and wouldn’t be able to help her raise the baby, or even

was right there, right where I could remember it if I tried, but there was another, more persistent knock, and I got out of bed. My mother was standing there, eating a Fiber One bar. “We’re leaving in fifteen minutes,” she said, “your father wants to make it to California today.” “There’s no way we can make it to California today,” I said, though I didn’t know if we could or not. She took another bite. I hated to watch her eat—she enjoyed herself too much and made a lot of noise. “I want one of

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