The Last Days of California
By Mary Miller
(Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871405883, January 2014, 256pp.)
The Short of It:
Probably one of the best coming-of-age novels I’ve read in a long while.
The Rest of It:
Fourteen-year-old Jess and her family, including her older, pregnant sister Elise, set out from Alabama to California right before the Rapture. Their mission? To save as many souls along the way as possible. As they travel from town to town, handing out their pamphlets to anyone who will take them, it becomes obvious to the girls that their father has lost his job (again) and that there really isn’t money for a trip across the country. Plus, the parents are clueless about their own daughter’s pregnancy and Jess finds herself in a position to protect her sister’s secret for as long as possible.
I loved this family. For all of their faults, they are a family in the biggest sense of the word. As they head out on this road trip, it’s clear that things are at stake. Life, as they know it could be changed forever after the Rapture but Jess and Elise are not convinced of that. They want to believe, but at the same time, they have their doubts.
Because of these doubts, they test the waters a bit. Hanging out with boys, drinking and smoking and basically experimenting as kids are known to do. But what makes it different for them is that they don’t know if the world will exist by the time they get to California. Will they be one of the saved ones? As they stop along the way, they meet people and have experiences that change who they are and in the process, they come to terms with their beliefs.
Books can be such a personal thing but I LOVED this book. I loved the family, the girls (with all of their faults) and the road trip, yes… I love road trips and reading this book was like jumping in the car and taking off for an adventure. I could easily have been their long-lost cousin hiding in the trunk. I FELT as if I was with them every time they stopped for gas and horribly processed snack foods. And every time they jumped into a motel pool, I could literally smell the chlorine.
This was such a great read. It gave me a lot to think about and it took me out of my world and right into theirs. I read it in just a couple of sittings and if you are worried about the religious parts, don’t. It’s not heavy-handed in any way. As Jess contemplates life, you can’t help but fall in love with her as a person.
To truly appreciate it, you must read it for yourself. I’m sure it will be on my list of favorites for 2014.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
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