Excerpt from The Last Days of California by Mary Miller, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Last Days of California

A Novel

by Mary Miller

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 256 pages
    Sep 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

I passed Elise the entertainment section and my father passed me the front page and my mother was stuck with the sports. Like all mothers everywhere, she had no use for sports. I read about the drought in Louisiana. We were passing through a red zone labeled "exceptional drought."

"I think the end times have already begun," I said, showing them a picture of a woman standing on the ashes of her house. She had her face in her hands, a couple of smudged children in the background.

"This is nothing compared to what's coming," our father said. "It'll be like nothing we could even imagine. There'll be three 9/11s in a day—tornadoes in places that have never seen tornadoes and earthquakes where there are no fault lines. The sun'll turn red as blood and bodies'll be piled up everywhere. Thank God we won't be around to see it." He always sounded so excited when he talked about the tribulations. He liked the idea of all the sinners getting what was coming to them while we were rewarded with eternal life.

"These things have always happened," Elise said, pouring another creamer into her coffee.

"They seem to be happening a lot more now," I said.

"They're just reporting on them more, or they come in cycles we're too young to remember," she said. "I'll tweet Anderson Cooper for some hard stats, it's probably just global warming."

"It seems like everything's global warming." I wasn't sure what global warming was, exactly, but it felt disappointing. Our father didn't believe in it. He said it had been made up by the Left for political gain. I could see him wanting to say something, but our food came and he picked up his napkin and set it on one knee. Then we all bowed our heads.

"Thank you, Lord," he said. I kept my eyes open and watched the cook's legs move, the slight bulge in his pants. "These are simple words, but they come from simple hearts that overflow with the realization of your goodness. We ask you to bless us as we eat, bless this food and bless the hands that prepared it. May the words of our lips spring forth from hearts of gratitude and may we bless others as we fellowship today."

As soon as he said "Amen," Elise was typing on her phone, thumbs moving fast over the keyboard. She stopped and reread it to herself before reading it aloud so I could tell her it sounded good. She loved Anderson Cooper, thought of him as a personal friend. He was gay, though—never before had there been so many homosexuals: "If a man also lie with mankind, they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

While the rest of us ate, Elise drank coffee and paged through the paper. She checked her fingers to see if they were ink-smudged, picked up her phone and set it back down. She was about to cut into her waffle when her phone signaled the arrival of a text message. She smiled and shook her head, so it must have been Dan, the boy who had done this to her, only he didn't know it yet, and maybe never would. She wasn't like the girls from 16 and Pregnant whose boyfriends left them to raise the baby alone, frazzled and post-baby fat, studying for the GED.

When the last of my burger began to fall apart, I pushed my plate away.

"Do you want my waffle?" Elise asked.

"Okay," I said.

"You aren't going to eat anything?" our father asked. He didn't like it when we didn't eat. It made him angry.

"I'm not hungry," she said.

"You need to eat something. You hardly had any dinner last night."

She slid her plate over to me and I scraped butter into the holes, filled them with syrup. Elise was sick with the baby and the driving and she'd always had a weak stomach, like our father. She was the delicate sister, she liked to tell me, which wasn't true, but I'd found there was no use in telling people what they were like.

The waitress wedged the check between the napkin holder and saltshaker and my father picked it up and went over it carefully, running his finger down the column. He had a number 3 in black ink on the back of his right hand. Every morning he scrubbed it clean and wrote a new number—tomorrow would be 2 and then 1 and then 0. At zero, we would be in California, listening to the rapture on the radio or watching it on TV. I still didn't understand why he thought it was important for us to be among the last; it was something he had gotten into his head.

Excerpted from The Last Days of California: A Novel by Mary Miller. Copyright © 2014 by Mary Miller. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The American Road Trip Book

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Not doing more than the average is what keeps the average down.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -