The Last Days of California

Fifteen-year-old Jess narrates her family's Rapture-bound cross-country road trip in Mary Miller's debut novel, The Last Days of California. Intentions aside, Jess's father's quest to guarantee his family's place among the last people in the continental United States to witness the second coming hunkers well below the sublime. Jess and her 17-year-old sister, Elise, are distracted by the immediate gratifications of cell phones, junk food, motel television and the teenage boys who flock to Elise in her "King Jesus Returns!" T-shirt and short-shorts. Although the family's dedication to converting the heathen wavers, and their discussions focus on roadside dining options and religious doctrine with equal fervor, the humor in The Last Days of California arises not from mockery of belief but from Jess's unfiltered assessment of earthly behavior.

Simultaneously overwhelmed and fascinated by her big sister's sexual magnetism, and uninspired by her mother's nearly catatonic blandness, Jess continually weighs her father's pious fatalism against Elise's profane teenage priorities. Every stop on the road provides Jess with more data on the state of her family and human nature. Essentially episodic, the question driving The Last Days of California is whether Jess will fulfill the exaltation of the "promise ring" her father gave her, or succumb to the more prosaic bliss (and perils) of unsaved adolescent America. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

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