Last Day

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

**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. 


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 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:
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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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I enjoyed Domenica Ruta's memoir, so I was excited to read her debut novel, "Last Day."  The novel follows 7 characters (who are ultimately connected) during the lead up to and celebration of "Last Day," a holiday to celebrate the end of the world -- although the world never ends on this day.  Her characters are vivid and interesting -- especially Karen, a woman who appears to have some sort of mental illness and suffered abuse as a young child.  I wanted to know more about these characters and wished that there were less characters so that they could be developed further. There was a bit too much going on in the book for it to be under 300 pages.
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Described as an apocalyptic tale and compared to Station 11, Heartbreaker, and other novels I loved, I was sure Last Day by Domenica Ruta was right up my alley and was thrilled to receive an ARC from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review. Rita’s novel follows the stories of a host of characters throughout the Last Day holiday as all converge on one increasingly ominous-seeming event.

I don’t think the comparison to Station 11 is accurate, as this isn’t a post-apocalyptic or dystopian novel, but it is an interesting and unique concept all its own. Unfortunately I had a lot of trouble connecting with many of the characters; I found myself most interested in Karen’s story, and least interested in Sarah and Kurt’s (I also thought the author got the characterization of tattooers/tattoo shops/tattooing way wrong which took me out of that story line completely). Karen however was one of the most unique characters I’ve encountered in a long time and my heart aches for her. I wasn’t particularly interested in Bear, however his cosmonaut counterpart, Svec, was the most endearing character in the novel and by the end I found myself feeling the most compassion and interest for the storyline on the ISS.

The book had a bit too much going on for being under 300 pages; I think the goal was to invoke the increasing chaos of Last Day but instead it just lost my interest repeatedly.  Overall, a great concept, but I don’t know if the impact was really there in the end. 

Review posted on 2/26/19 at the following places:
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3.5 stars rounding up to 4. To begin, the whole Station Eleven comparison/blurb should be removed. It sets expectations that this book sadly for me, did not reach. I LOVE dystopian fiction. I read nearly every mainstream dystopian novel that gets published. To me, dystopia it is more about the survivors, finding a way of coming together and moving forward after a devastation, and striking a new balance.

This book was not that. This book takes place on an annual holiday sometime in the alternate/near future called "Last Day". It's about celebrating the end of the world, but then the world is somewhat reborn the next day and life goes on. It brings together three separate character stories and attempts to weave them together, albeit loosely and not until the final 20% or so of the novel (and then still pretty loosely). It did keep me reading, except for some of the lengthier narratives when Karen was doing a retelling of a Last Day story to some children in an apartment. I found myself skimming towards the end of that ramble.

The characters of both Sarah and Karen were unlikeable to me. Karen had some tragic but humorous moments, Sarah was basically just a bitter teen misanthrope. I did like Svec and Bear (astronauts) though. Towards the end there are all kinds of new people being introduced and tossed after several lengthy paragraphs, I found myself wanting to skim.

I don't want to say any more because of spoilers, but if you're really into dystopian fiction, you might give it a read, but it was not my favorite in a well-loved category.
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First I would like to thank Random House, the author Domenica Ruta and Netgalley for allowing me to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was my first book by the author and her style of writing draws you in. It took me a bit to dive into this world, which is familiar but is different as well. All the characters, Bear, Karen, Sarah, Kurt are connected, even though they don’t know it. Each has their own tragic story and shows their journey to celebrate the yearly tradition of Last Day. 
Personally, I wanted to know more about these characters, because at times I wondered why we are following this particular set of characters. They are all unique, like humans are, and share their own facet of humanity, but the book didn’t give me enough. A lot is hinted at, like Karen’s traumatic childhood, but I wanted to know more - the Why behind it all. I felt I didn’t get that even at the end of the book. Plus more characters where thrown into the mix in the last few pages, that had previously not been covered.

This would be a great book for bookclubs for example, because there is plenty to talk about and after the ending, I was left with my own musings about the situation and how I would feel.
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Domenica Ruta's Last Day is a book that shouldn't work, but it does and does beautifully. The premise is that humanity comes together on May 3rd every year in anticipation of the end of the world. (It made me think of Y2K just a smidge.) The characters are diverse and should not work together, but there's an intersectionality, which is fascinating. Stunning writing!
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I can honestly say this book is like none other I’ve read. I loved the rotating cast of viewpoints and getting to be inside each chatacter’s head for a little while. Ruta is definitely a writer to watch out for.
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I loved the unique concept of Last Day when I read the synopsis. Every year in May people celebrate the end of the world or not. Imagine being happy about the apocalypse! It's odd yet fascinating. During this day, Last Day, the story follows numerous characters. Somehow, all of these characters intersect with one another in their lives. There are too many characters to keep track of here, but I think it's supposed to be that way. It's a busy day, a lot of people, noise, activity, drama, happiness, grief and on it goes. It's a blur with no single person understanding how they might have affected someone else's life. The story reads like a blur with too much happening. I liked it because it's fascinating how one person affects another, and we never know about it. Weaving all of these seemingly random strangers together is a great premise. I recommend for anyone who can read without getting overwhelmed. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Are you thinking…oh great, another female author another female centered end of the world? Well, don’t, this isn’t like that at all. Yes, it is a story of the last day on Earth, but it’s set in a world very much like our own with the major distinction being that Last Day is thing celebrated every May every year. It’s a day of atonement, amendments, forgiveness and so on. It’s actually fraught with meaning the way few celebratory occasions are anymore. But then again it also in a way trivializes the apocalypse, by presuming it to be a real or metaphorical possibility on such regular basis. And so this on Last Day the readers get to follow different characters through interconnected narratives as they navigate their lives. It’s a lovely story and it’s very well written, but there is a sort of dreamy quality to it that makes it something of an aloof read. The author says in her afterword the novel was written in a postpartum fugue state and that’s sort of what it reads like, not postpartum per se (I’m not sure that enters the equation), but certainly fugue like. And also, and this is despite the fact that the plots are interwoven, it sort of reads like a collection of short stories. At any rate, it engages and reads well, but it does maintain a certain emotional distance. And then it ends, like a Last Day would. If this was a bookclub read, everyone would probably discuss what they would do on their last day on Earth. That’s just a gimme. I’m not in love, but it’s a lovely book. Thanks Netgalley.
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