Last Day

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

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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This was OK. The author has talent, and the main characters were fully formed, although there was a large cast. The lack of chapter names was a little jarring, since I didn't know what character was the focus before starting. The ending wasn't satisfying for me. The book didn't hold my interest consistently, which is why I rated it as average.
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2.5 stars bumped up to 3. 

This book is a lot. The premise itself is captivating and interesting enough to warrant reading, but I am not sure the prose is. It isn't poorly written, it just throws so much at the reader without giving them time to properly acclimate. There are so many characters that you're hit with almost immediately, it becomes hard to keep them all and why they are all meant to be important. 

The book itself though is unique and interesting, it deserves a good rating but it's hard to warrant it because of how hard the writer makes everyone work to simply follow along.
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I found this unreadable--too many characters thrown at me too quickly, with no hooks or coherence. I gave up without finishing it.
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