Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 1/20/2014
Buy from IndieBound
In anticipation of the Rapture, 14 year-old Jess’s evangelical father packs up her family and heads west toward California, with the goal of saving souls along the way. On their journey, Jess discovers her rebellious older sister is secretly pregnant, causing her to reevaluate herself, her family and her religion. Each stop will lead the increasingly splintered family down an unexpected, but welcome, path.
From the first pages of The Last Days of California, Miller’s refreshing tone rings clear. Though they hand out tracts in their Jesus t-shirts, Jess and her sister argue with one another, listen to pop music and regularly question their parents’ authority. The novel’s characters feel surprisingly real and avoid the strict stereotypes often used to summarize the evangelical.
“I picked up an empty popcorn bag and stuffed candy and gum wrappers into it, passed it up. My mother took it and held it. It would be no fun being a mother, everybody handing you their garbage and wanting things all the time, nobody to tell your problems to. She could never say anything bad about our family. She could only talk about other peoples’ problems as a way of talking about her own.”
Miller’s ability to point out recognizable quirks in everyday sights and moments fills her novel with a signature, contemporary voice that has the power to propel a career. The Last Days of California is a smart-witted and brilliantly observant debut you won’t want to miss.
Mary Miller was recently a guest on Other People with Brad Listi, which is one of my favorite podcasts. Make sure to check it out!