A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The fates of a cast of seemingly unconnected people converge during the celebration of an ancient holiday in “a darkly glittering novel” (The New York Times) that brings to mind Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles.
“A beautifully written, thought-provoking book about life at the end.”—Refinery29
In Domenica Ruta’s profoundly original novel, the end of the world comes once a year. Every May 28, humanity gathers to anticipate the planet’s demise—and to celebrate as if the day is truly its last.
On this holiday, three intersecting sets of characters embark on a possibly last-chance quest for redemption. In Boston, bookish wunderkind Sarah is looking for love and maybe a cosmic reversal from the much older Kurt, a tattoo artist she met at last year’s Last Day BBQ—but he’s still trying to make amends to the family he destroyed long ago. Dysfunctional Karen keeps getting into trouble, especially when the voices she’s been hearing coax her to abandon everything to search for her long-lost adoptive brother; her friend Rosette has left the Jehovah’s Witnesses to follow a new pastor at the Last Kingdom on Earth, where she brings Karen on this fateful day. Meanwhile, above them all, three astronauts on the International Space Station, Bear, an American; Russian Svec; and billionaire Japanese space tourist Yui, contemplate their lives as well as their precious Earth from afar.
With sparkling wit, verbal ingenuity, and wild imagination, Ruta has created an alternate world in which an ancient holiday brings into stark reflection our deepest dreams, desires, hopes, and fears. In this tour-de-force debut novel she has written a dazzling, haunting love letter to humanity and to our planet.
Praise for Last Day
“In Ruta’s fiction debut, each May 28 people around the world gather to celebrate what could be the end of the world. The author chooses seven quite different characters, tied together in various ways (romantically, for one pair; orbiting Earth on a space station for three others). Her focus on individual needs and choices as disaster potentially looms gives her story emotional heft.”—The Washington Post
“Domenica Ruta’s empathy is broad and deep, her prose fine-grained, her humor sharp but tender. Last Day is a life-affirming antidote to these pre-apocalyptic times.”—Teddy Wayne, author of Loner
Ruta explores ideas of forgiveness and loneliness through the experiences of three characters on the titular holiday in this meandering, purposeless debut set in a time much like our present. Thomas "Bear" Clark is an American astronaut aboard the International Space Station who has become disconnected from his daughters and his ex-wife. Sarah Moss is a teenager discovering her sexuality through her curiosity-driven pursuit of an older man. Karen Donovan is a young woman from Boston with mental health issues and a troubled past who has few friends to lean on. The slow and overly contemplative exploration of the sparse events of each character's Last Day, an international holiday celebrating the end of the world, is frequently interrupted by the detailed and sentimental backstory of irrelevant characters. There's no conflict, the characters make few decisions, and nothing really happens. Though small connections among the protagonists are rewarding and Ruta offers convincing vignettes, readers will be underwhelmed by this bleak examination of humanity.