Excerpt from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Let's Call It a Doomsday

by Katie Henry

Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry X
Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry
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  • Published:
    Aug 2019, 400 pages

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Catherine M Andronik
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When I walk into the kitchen, Mom is still in her work clothes, though she's probably been home for a while.

"Hey, sweetie," she says, closing the oven door and then straightening up to look at me. She frowns. "I wish you wouldn't do that."

I'd ask what I possibly could have done, since I'm standing here motionless and silent, but I know she'll tell me.

"What's in the oven?" I ask as she walks over to me and gently untucks the hair behind my ears.

"There," she says, pushing the hair back away from my forehead and fluffing the ends like I'm some kind of prized Pomeranian. "It looks so much better that way. Don't you think?"

When it's behind my ears, it's out of my eyes. I don't care what it looks like. "It's fine."

"Or up," she says, starting to gather it into a high ponytail. "You never wear it up."

I shrug her off. "Mom, stop."

She lets my hair down. Steps back. She nods at a bowl on the counter next to the sink.

"Can you wash your hands and mix that coleslaw for me, please? I'm bringing it to the Jensens tomorrow. You can put it in the fridge when you're done."

She knows I don't like the feeling of cold food on my hands, but the last time I reminded her, she said, "Well, there's not much you do like, is there?" And the Jensens just had a baby, which makes this an act of service. So I roll up my sleeves and start.

It's quiet, but the wrong kind. Maybe she's counting down the seconds, just like I'm counting down the seconds until my dad or little sister comes home and rescues me.

"So." I hear Mom turn toward me. "How was it?"

"How was what?"

She tries to sound casual. "Therapy."

Now I know why she gave me this job. My hands are covered in mayo and I can't walk out. I mix the slaw with shredded carrots and shredded trust.

"It was fine," I say, and can almost hear Martha: "Fine" is not a feeling. Mom doesn't know that, though.

"Just fine?"

Or maybe she does.

"I talked. She talked. I didn't cry," I say. "So, yeah. Just fine."

"It's a lot of money for 'just fine,' Ellis."

"It's therapy, not Disneyland, Mom."

Mom closes the oven door and checks the slaw over my shoulder. "It's not mixed enough."

"I'm not done, I—"

"What did you talk about?"

I close my eyes. "I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"No."

"You don't know what you talked about for an hour?"

"I mean, a lot of stuff," I say. "I didn't take notes."

She waits a beat. "Did you talk about me?"

"Mom!"

She has the absolute audacity to look shocked. "You don't have to yell."

"Why do you always ask that?" I've stopped mixing.

"I have a right to know what's being said about me."

I shake my head and start mixing again.

"No, Ellis, not like that—here." She digs her hands into the bowl, taking over.

"Do you have to criticize every little thing I do?" I snap, but step back.

"You're being dramatic."

"You're kind of proving my point."

Her nostrils flare, but at that moment, Dad steps into the kitchen, two reusable grocery bags over his shoulders. He was smiling, but that dies when he sees the way Mom and I are looking at each other.

"Hey," he says, cautiously, hands out like a zookeeper faced with two snarling wolverines.

Mom flicks one last look at me before kissing him hello and rinsing her hands off at the sink. "I told my sister I'd call her back before dinner. Can you check the lasagna in five?"

"Sure," he says. I unload the groceries. Once we hear the click of her heels on the second floor, Dad turns to me. "What happened?"

I don't say anything for a moment.

"Come on, Elk," he says, knowing I can't resist my childhood nickname. Elk, for my initials—Ellis Leah Kimball.

Excerpted from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Henry. Excerpted by permission of Katherine Tegan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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