Last Day

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

Yup- this time the blurb is correct- this is profoundly original.  It's also very well written.  Every year people around the alternate universe celebrate the coming of the last day- May 28.  It hasn't actually come yet so every year people have to figure out what to celebrate, what to atone for, and what to let go of.  There are lots of characters here and you might finding skipping from person to person a little confusing but go with it.  My favorites were the astronauts but you might find another than speaks to you.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  This is a hard one to review but it's worth your time- and if it takes a bit to settle in, keep at it because you'll enjoy the ride.
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This is a really interesting and unique novel.  A part of me wants to mull it over for a week or two before writing my review, but I decided to write while it's all still fresh in my head and I'm a little unsteady about the whole thing.  The concept pulled me in - all across earth, people from around the world are celebrating a holiday called Last Day.  It was predicted long ago that the world would end on a certain day, so every year on the day before it is supposed to happen, people gather in preparation.  Every culture honors it a little differently.  Some people go around asking for forgiveness or redemption.  Some people burn items of importance.  Some towns host parades.  

This isn't a linear story or a traditional novel with a protagonist and a problem to solve.  This book has MANY stories and follows several main characters.  It reads more like multiple short stories, with all stories focussing on the theme of how they each chose to honor Last Day.  It can be tough in the beginning since each character is so vastly different - from a middle aged astronaut at a space station to a teenage girl at home with her family and everything in between - and you wonder how it all comes together.  I ended up making a chart to keep track of who was who.  This helped me as the novel progressed and bounced around from each location.    

What works with this format is the authors ability to look at traditions and superstitions. By swapping viewpoints throughout the novel, the author is able to cast a bigger picture of how Last Day works and allow us to get a feel for overall society's mindset at this time and space.  What results is deep dive into each characters while still getting a birds eye view of the entire world.  It reminded me somewhat of [book:There There|36692478] but with less emotional attachment to the characters.  In this book, however, the individual character maps don't ever cross each other.  They aren't meant to come together but rather form your perception of Last Day and make you think - what would YOU do?

I loved the historical markers throughout the novel where the author explained how certain traditions came about throughout time or how some were changed and why.  It allowed the author to make us think about several social issues, religion, and culture without it becoming a book focussed on those issues. The exploration of all these things rises organically out of the characters living their lives, and is never preachy or judgemental. It does make you ponder why we do what we do culturally - how did Santa come about from baby Jesus?  what does a bunny and painted eggs have to do with Easter?  

This book is unsettling, but I think it is supposed to be.  Not all of the characters are likable and neither are their Last Day choices - but I think that's the point.  Some people seek redemption in the end while others want one last hoorah.  I thought the ending was unique and unexpected yet fitting.  It would make for a great book club read as I'm sure plenty of people will hate it!! But that brings about great discussion.   I had to reread the last chapters twice to make sure I got it all.  My brain is still grinding away trying to process it. 

Thank you to Net Galley and Random House Publishing for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
#LastDay #NetGalley #randomhousepublishing
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When I finished this novel, my reaction was "What the fvck did I just read?"

It's not a story so much as a series of incidents, from different characters' point(s)-of-view. The author's depiction of Jehovah's Witnesses is totally wrong and offensive. Every character is awful. What happens on the Last Day on Earth is not explained, you don't know what actually caused the extinguishing of life or why it happened.

Not recommended.
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The premise of this novel is interesting. It follows four different people as they celebrate Last Day - an annual holiday antipating the end of the world. The characters are interesting and flawed, each searching for something, whether that be a connection, redemption, etc. If it sounds cliched, that's kind of how it comes across. There was nothing new here, and the characters felt disjointed at times (except Karen, I kind of loved quirky, traumatized Karen). I'm not even sure how to characterize the genre - it's not science fiction, maybe speculative fiction? Sort of? Overall, it's very well written, just not what I was expecting.
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On the night of May 27-May 28 on an alternate earth, people around the world celebrate Last Night. The holiday has ancient roots. On this night, people try to make amends to people they’ve wrong; make sacrifices; or just light bonfires, drink, and have a good time. Domenica Ruta’s Last Day jumps from character to character on one Last Night in an unknown year. All of the characters are isolated from their friends and families for a variety of reasons. All are seeking something—a sense of connection, most of all—and all of them struggle to relate to the people around them. In addition to all this is the lingering question: what if this Last Night is the Last Night?

Last Day follows Sarah, a disaffected teenager; Kurt, a sad sack tattoo artist; Bear, a lonely astronaut on the International Space Station; and Karen, a mentally ill woman who is on her last chances at her job and half-way house home. Of these, my favorite is Karen. Karen recognizes that she has mental issues but continues to follow her own logic, no matter how out of sync with reality it is. She has unusual insights and fixations; I found her strangely endearing even though I know that if I met her in real life she would annoy the hell out of me. But something about her makes me want to reach out to her and help her. She means well, even if she often ends up causing mayhem. Bear is similarly sympathetic. He’s a good man, but no one seems to really see and appreciate him. I really felt for him as he had to put up with a dismissive Russian cosmonaut and an incredibly irritating, over-privileged space tourist from Japan.

Sarah and Kurt, the characters in the other half of the book, are harder to sympathize with, though I think I understand their place in the book. Sarah is one of those teenagers who seems utterly determined not to enjoy anything. She affects cynicism and pretentiousness. And yet, she is the only one in the book who seems to take Last Day as a warning that life on earth could come to an end. Kurt, the other character who takes Last Day seriously, doesn’t see the day as a warning. Instead, Kurt sees the day as a chance to address the biggest wrong in his life, the thing that threw him off track. In comparison to Karen, Bear, and even Sarah, Kurt is the least developed character.

Now that I’ve finished reading Last Day, I feel like I’ve experienced a bait-and-switch. The bulk of the novel, until the very end, distracts us with human problems, history, and mythology. All of this draws our attention away from the ultimate meaning of Last Day. This bait-and-switch feels like a slap in the face. Once I recovered, however, I had an epiphany. In this age of climate change and the very real extinctions going on around us, we could use a lot less distraction with things that don’t matter when there’s a chance that life as we know it actually is coming to an end unless we as a species make substantial changes now.
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How clever to have publication of this book take place on what in this dystopian world is known as "last day."  May 28.  So will this be the final day on earth?  The world depicted here, the people, are recognizable in today's reality, except that every year there is a worldwide "celebration" anticipating the end of the world on a certain date, and butterfly-effect like, Ruta lays out the interconnectivity of us all.   Absorbing and readable.
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First and foremost: the writing was quite fine. But if you are expecting an apocalyptic/dystopia/Science Fiction novel, you won’t get it here - the blurb is a bit misleading, imo…  Again, fine fiction writing - complex characters that I enjoyed - foibles and all.  and weaving subplots made for a satisfying FICTION read. Good job and I’ll read more from Domenica Ruta.
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This is a novel based upon the premise of facing the last day of life, a practice that is celebrated in this world of the near future annually. It revolves around specific characters, diverse in their individual lives and attitudes but sharing the one familiar trait of wondering will this be the year it finally happens. The characters are interesting and the reader becomes involved in wondering with them and watching their behaviors. The prose is poetic at times; the tone varies from heavy to light. However, I found it a bit confusing and my interest in the plot waned at times. Had I been a fan of this genre, I’m sure my experience would have been different.
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**2.5 Stars** This is now the second book I've read that has been compared to 'Station Eleven', and it's the second book I've read that is NOTHING LIKE 'STATION ELEVEN'. I really wish publishers would STOP comparing their mediocre dystopian-esq novels to the beautiful story that is 'Station Eleven'. It just pisses readers off and sets them up for disappointment. Also, this story is NOT dystopian. At all. 

Anyway...

I'll start this review by telling readers what they REALLY want to know while reading this book.

Yes...the world comes to an end at the end.

No, I will not go into how or when, or anything explaining it, but that's all I really wanted to know while reading this. In fact, it's the main reason I KEPT reading it. To see if and how the world would end (it's actually kind of terrifying in how absolute it is).

None of the characters drew me in. I didn't care for any of them...Karen's a broken, crazy woman who is incredibly depressing to read about. Sarah (with an 'H'!) is a sixteen year old girl trying WAAAAAY too hard to be what she perceives as deep and mature, but comes off as bratty and selfish. And Kurt is a creepy guy in his 40's preying upon the aforementioned sixteen year old girl (it's really skeevy and gross).

The three astronauts, Bear, Svec and Yui were my favorite to read about. Well, Bear and Svec. Yui is kind of...weird. I really liked having the perspective of three people so completely removed from Earth itself.

As for the writing? Well....this is a little harder for me to review. Much of it is written very well, but in many places (especially the ending), it comes off as trying to hard to be flowery and poetic. I don't know...I know how I want to describe it in my head, but I can't really explain it. Some sections are written in a way where you have to go back and re-read them to really understand what's happening. Nothing is really CLEAR, and that frustrates me. There's a lot of pointless descriptions and side-stories sprinkled throughout that have no meaning to the overall story. Like the dolphins at the end, or the kid with the rabbits, or Mary's psycho sister, Sarah. So many characters are thrown at you (especially near the end) that they mean nothing because you can't keep them all straight.

Overall, I don't know that I would recommend this to anyone I know. I CERTAINLY wouldn't recommend it to fans of 'Station Eleven', because they'll be in for a major disappointment. It's by no means a terrible book, but it's definitely a slow, slow burn, with a mild payout in the end.

*** I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
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This was definitely a thought provoking and entertaining read. The first, maybe, 3/4 of it had this really powerful slow cast build up that reminded me of the early days of The Walking Dead where you're invested in everyone. The last quarter or so was disappointing.... since I didn't have any time to care about the new cast of characters. If I was rating the first 3/4 on it's own, it would be a firm 4.5 (instead of a solid 3).
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The premise; an annual celebration, around the world of the impending apocalypse was intriguing. The various forms the celebrations take are shared through several main and secondary characters whose storylines occasionally remotely intertwine, was quite fascinating.

The author is quite gifted, able to succinctly convey so many themes, and carry so many storylines.

My only issue with the book is the multiple characters and storylines, my head felt over full remembering who was who, how they connected, etc. But this is a nice issue to have, had to think way beyond the last page.

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the opportunity to review this book.
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This novel is a stellar exploration of a motley crew of memorable characters and an examination of the importance of rituals and traditions in the face of the potential end of the world.  But perhaps most obviously, it's an amazing illustration on the unlikely connections very disparate people forge and the necessity of this connection to sustain our hearts and sanity.  The author writes so lyrically that I found myself highlighting passages to review later because I found them so affecting.  There is a richness and depth to the characters that's often missing in apocalyptic fiction.  This is a truly unique book; I can honestly say I have never read anything like it.  I would whole-heartedly recommend it to readers who enjoy complicated characters, unique plotting, and wild rides.
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While the comparisons to Station Eleven aren't accurate, this is a unique, intriguing novel. The writing is skilled, full of feeling and vivid imagery. We meet a series of flawed humans who we follow throughout the course of one day. These characters are deep, complicated, and despite their mistakes, worth rooting for. I enjoyed the story and the connections the characters make. As a whole, though I found it unsatisfying. Perhaps it went over my head, or I haven't had enough time to throughly process the whole thing. While the story is pretty bleak, it's also thought provoking and the writing alone is worth reading. I say definitely give it a try!
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Every year at the end of May all around the world people get together to celebrate Last Day, a tradition dating back centuries. Last Day is the possibility of the end of the world, and rebirth if the world is still there in the morning (which it is every year). The book starts abruptly on May 27th of a year that cannot be too far away from where we are now, with the introduction of several characters in the middle of their day. Some of these characters are linked, others aren’t, or only by the fact that they are human. Sarah is a teenager, intent on finding the man she fell in love with on Last Day the year before, Kurt is that man, a tattoo artist and an alcoholic; Karen is a woman with a traumatic past and mental health issues, Bear is an astronaut hovering around earth in a space station with a Russian astronaut and a Japanese artist as companions.

This book had everything for me to like (end of days style apocalypse, weird characters who most people won’t like), and for me not to like (predictable, rushed, lacking in depth). It’s compulsively readable, and very well written, and the first half kept me engrossed in the plot. And then for some reason I lost interest, and started to plough through the pages to make sure my ending predictions were going to come true. Suddenly a whole slew of new characters were introduced, and the development of the other characters just collapses, and you start to wonder what on earth happened to the storyline. Did the author get bored and feel like she had to rush to fill 100 more pages? I have no idea, but I was a bit disappointed.

This is not dystopia, or a post-apocalyptic story, more an overview on humanity on the verge of something that they have already predicted, and are compulsively hurling themselves towards. It’s dire and pretty hopeless (which I enjoyed), and wouldn’t have minded the predictability of the ending so much if there had been more focus on the characters introduced in the first half during the second half of the book. I wanted more of Karen, of Kurt, of Sarah, of Bear, and less of the random pictures of random people that appeared out of nowhere nearer the end of the book.

I didn’t dislike the book, there were actually quite a few things I enjoyed, but I wish the author had spent more time developing it into something longer and less rushed. The author does mention having written the story in a state of postpartum fugue in the Acknowledgments section, something that I have been known to do and understand completely, and it does account for the “rushed” and somewhat unfinished feeling.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!
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Last Day by Domenica Ruta tells the fictional story of several characters and how they spent a holiday known as The Last Day, “an oddity on the calendar” described as slightly more than one day, but not quite two that began at some point on May 27 and ended on May 28. Ruta writes that the parameters of the day were entirely personal. Some celebrate with backyard barbeques or private parties, others come together in community festivities. The narrative traces the parallel lives of several people on The Last Day. The characters we meet embark on quests to reconcile their pasts, reconnect, make amends and find meaning. 

High schooler Sarah Moss finds it hard “to make plans for a day that you secretly considered to be your last.” She decides to skip out on her parents’ annual pizza party in search of her crush, a middle-aged tattoo artist named Kurt she met at the same party exactly one year prior. Too jaded, cynical and analytical for her own good, Sarah struggles to reconcile her feelings with Kurt, who simultaneously sets out to make peace with his past. 

We also meet Karen Donovan who “belonged to a different caste of crazy. Heavily medicated and monitored by a slew of social workers.”  Karen is a social outcast, probably on the autistic spectrum and bipolar with a tragic childhood and only one friend, Rosette, an immigrant from the Azores and elderly caregiver. “Rosette didn’t know Karen’s whole story, but she could tell the girl had been raped at least once, probably more. Karen bore the unmistakable stain of sexual trauma.”  Early in the novel, Karen shares a portentous thought with Rosette asking her how she thinks the world will end: “we will melt or explode or crumble or what?” After losing her job and subsequently her room in a group home, Karen sets out to find Dennis, who once lived with Karen and shares their childhood trauma of abuse.

The third narrative thread traces the emotional trajectory of Thomas “Bear” Clark, an astronaut on the International Space Station floating above the earth on The Last Day.  He is accompanied on his space mission by a rich Japanese space tourist Yui and a Russian cosmonaut, Svec. Bear is the golden boy immune to dark moods, “from a distance, his whole life glittered with the charm of the elect,” yet on earth, Bear is suffering an existential crisis. Accused of hiding behind his work and being an absent father and husband by his ex-wife, and despite all of his professional accomplishments, Bear struggles to find meaning in his life.  

Other minor characters weave in and out of this story, leaving me to wonder why they appeared in the first place. 

The narrative felt at times discombobulated as chapters bounced back and forth between the lives of characters in real time on The Last Day. As for the plot, it’s hard for me to pin down, other than an exploration into how the human psyche deals with the end of life as we know it. The novel is peppered with rich anecdotes and history about The Last Day enabling me to suspend my disbelief and buy into it as a real event.  If I were to analyze the meta-message, I would say Last Day is about the quest for human connection and meaning. The author writes with a subtext that belies her understanding of human nature—how “Hate had lust at its core, a dark quicksand of desire…” or “Women will say absolutely anything to justify their sexual selections.” Her prose is graphic and sensory-rich such as the author’s description of Sarah’s evolving psyche: “a place where all the inventions of her childhood, her desires and opinions and perceived truths, were being dismantled, then liquefied into a putrid ooze out of which her adult character would eventually take shape.”  This putrid ooze is also ominous, a metaphor that becomes tangible later in the book. (That’s all I’ll hint at without giving away the ending)

Last Day teases out secrets, forces people to confront their pasts and reveals that people are fundamentally unknowable. The holiday ends with a great hush, sixty seconds of silence as the lights go out and people sit in complete darkness. Will dawn bring a new day, new beginnings or is May 27th the last opportunity for humanity to self correct its course? I encourage you to read on and find out.

Domenica Ruta is also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir With or Without You. She lives in New York City for more check out domenicaruta.com or on Twitter @DomenicaMary
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DNF.... After reading about 25%, I determined that this tome was not for me. I could not connect with the characters.
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Last Day by Domenica Ruta describes how different people "celebrate" the Last Day, a yearly holiday in anticipating of the end of the world. Focusing on several characters, including a team on an international space station, a tattoo artist, a teen girl, Ruta depicts existential dread in various forms and flavors. I really liked the different characters, and the ending definitely stuck with me. It's very bleak and dark with unlikable characters, which worked for me in this book (though I don't always enjoy it in other contexts). Unlike other reviewers, I somehow missed the comparison to Station Eleven, which is probably for the best. 


Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The book description is intriguing and several of the characters and their stories are interesting. The organizing idea of an annual holiday celebrating the end of the world is fertile ground for exploration. The idea, in fact, is the best developed thread with chapters detailing the history and sociology of the event  interspersed among the stories of multiple characters.  There are so many characters with more or less appeal to this reader, that my interest waxed and waned and was ultimately not rewarded. I'm sure this book will find its audience among those who connect better with them.
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3.5 stars rounded down to 3, since the ending was so upsetting I had nightmares. 

Last Day tells the story of multiple characters, connected by varying degrees of separation, as they celebrate the international holiday "Last Day,' which is an annual celebration of the anticipated end of the world. These characters range the gamut from an asexual adolescent on a journey of self-discovery, to a special needs woman trying to track down her family, to a tattoo artist attempting to make amends, to astronauts on board the ISS, and many others.

In addition, inter-spliced between the chapters are short vignettes describing the history of the Last Day holiday, and the various ways that different countries and cultures observe and celebrate. As a side note, these vignettes were honestly some of my favorite parts of the book, and were some of the most creative and expansive bits of world building, in a book that aimed to increasingly 'build a world' as it went along. There is part of me that wishes there could be a graphic novella accompaniment that goes into further details of the history and present day Last Day celebrations--I would buy it in a heartbeat.

As for the book itself. 

There is a lot of good here. The initial central characters are well formed and distinct in their voices, though at times there was a bit too much of growing mystery about their pasts which was never explained. The Last Day vignettes, as I mentioned above, were fantastic. I admire the ambition of this book, and think it's a new take on the apocalyptic fiction genre--though I would NEVER make a comparison to Station Eleven. This is squarely in the apocalyptic/actual apocalypse space, not in the post-apocalyptic/ 'we can learn about life by seeing how people deal with encountered death and tragedy' 

But as the book went on, it got a bit too big for its constraints. More and more characters and settings were added, particularly in the last few pages, to little benefit, and at the expense of spending one last moment with our main characters. The ways that all the characters connected became increasingly more tenuous and forced, sometimes to the point of improbability. The ending, as I noted above, was truly disturbing and upsetting, though I guess that's not really a negative--it's just a thing to be aware of. Of all the post-apocalyptic books I've read, this one is the most bleak--not only in the end of the world, but in its belief in the ability of characters to ever change and grow. 

Ultimately, while I think this book was very well-written and will appeal to a lot of people, I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed it. 

Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for the free ARC, in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. Another version of this review can be found on my goodreads account, as of March 8th: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2737823987
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I found this book to be too packed with characters and information, making it difficult to follow. Given the amount of activity the book should have been much longer than it was.
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