What would you do on your last day on Earth...if there was a last day every year?
Ruta’s (With or Without You, 2013) debut novel centers around Last Day, a worldwide holiday to celebrate the Earth, prepare for the end of days, and atone for one's mistakes. The novel weaves together a seemingly disparate group of people as their lives overlap in small and large ways over the course of the holiday: Sarah, the anxious, bookish high schooler; Kurt, the middle-aged tattoo artist; Karen, the troubled loner; Rosette, the religious zealot; and Bear, Svec, and Yui, the international space travelers. Sarah travels to get tattooed by Kurt after having fallen in love with him during a family party the previous year. Kurt plans to atone for his past mistakes. Karen travels to find the last vestige of her family. Rosette joins a new religious movement. Bear, Svec, and Yui float through space together and apart. Ruta delicately sketches the large cast of characters—as well as their dreams, fears, and failures—with care. She’s able to pinpoint certain universal feelings with precision. For example, when Sarah undergoes an underwhelming yet life-changing event, Ruta writes that “now she was alone and full of feelings that were at once ancient, almost inherent, and also brand-new.” The novel falters in its final stretch when the plot becomes cluttered with too many secondary characters. Despite this, Ruta’s talent shines when she writes about the natural world: “Long before there was sleep, there was night, Earth rolling away from the sun as a lover in a bed,” and “Beauty remained. It had existed before, and always would, whether or not it could be borne.”
A beautiful portrait of humanity in the shadow of a dying Earth.