The Last Days opens up in the Kingdom Hall and Satan wishes to devour those that stray but those who stay true to word of Jehovah are issued immortality on earth. The Last Days is not just an insight into life as a Jehovah’s Witness, it is about heroism, it is about Millar’s bravery which illuminates the true strength of will and encompasses that defining moment of desperation where Millar must make a life changing choice ‘shall I stay? Or shall I go?’ Millar was raised by her mother who became a Jehovah’s Witness when Millar was two years old. Her entire childhood was spent waiting for the end of the world with the knowledge that only a select few would survive. Her mind was filled with dark images of death, knowing the end would come but not how or when and it was going to be violent. Guilt plagued her in every part of her life; she was not allowed to celebrate Christmas so when she makes a Christmas card in school asking for a specific present, she is immediately overcome with a profound sense of remorse. She writes, ‘Doing this bad thing means I’ll die when the end comes. This means birds will peck my eyes out…On the platform the elders say bodies will line the streets after the great tribulation.’
Millar wrote The Last Days to expose this organisation as something sinister and manipulative not to mention the abuse of women’s rights, it is a warning shot that rings out and vibrates through the atmosphere, it is terrifying to the point of disbelief, but she fought back and left the organisation not long after she had been shamed and saw the organisation for what it truly was. Millar’s way with words is remarkable, they get under the skin and bleed out like a tattoo imprinting your flesh. Her language is evocative and piercing like her gaze. There is nothing flaky about Millar, she is utterly solid and incredibly clear whilst summoning and casting dark imagery upon our minds.
Millar describes the uneasy terrain in which she had to wade through, splitting her into two people as it did with her estranged mother. Her religious life was in constant opposition with the pull of wider society. Within its restrictions and imprisonment there is the discovery of literature and music promising a delicious escape, she writes, ‘I bring music and books I shouldn’t into the house.’ However, when reading becomes the tool for trying to solve the mystery of how the world will come to an end and how she will eventually die, it is music she seeks solace in, she listens to John Peel at night , ‘when he plays a song, a door opens into somewhere else…The only time I feel myself now is when I’m listening to music.’
But there is only so much that the books she finds in her grandparent’s treasure trove can do, or secret sessions with John Peel. Miller begins to starve herself. She writes about her starvation as a force to contain herself, to push back and hold back everything that feels too big for her. Her mother who follows then breaks the rules dished out by the religion leave Millar in a painful state of limbo. Restricting food is a way of shrinking away, trying to hide and distract thoughts and feelings that are shrouded in confusion and pain. She writes, ‘This awful hunger I have for the world, I need to tame it, soon.’ Food is desire, desire is prohibited, so she cuts it out, she severs needs, she slashes life in order to be empty. She has only one focus and no space for anything else. Her body and not her soul, became a battlefield, her body has become cannibalistic as it begins to eat away at itself.
One of the most painful moments to read is when Millar kisses another man whilst she is married. Her husband is heavily dedicated to the religion, and she finds herself in the situation where the elders convene to cross-examine her actions. They subject her to a gruelling interrogation which is not dissimilar to a form of emotional torture. She is forced to sit in front of these two men and her husband to confess every sexual act she had performed with her husband before they were married in intimate detail. This is a demoralising examination which goes on for hours, she paints this scene so vividly you can feel the shifting light and street noise beyond the window. You wish to overt your eyes from the page but doing so would be denying Millar this moment in which she is informing us of life on the inside, it would be abandoning a person who has been courageous enough to tell us the truth.
Millar escaped but it did not leave her unharmed, what she did manage was to share her story and bring about truth, and as she wrote early in the book, ‘Maybe it’s ok to feel like I don’t belong. Maybe one day I’ll do something useful with the feeling,’ I think she did something extremely useful with that feeling. Imagine if she had not broken free, we would be missing a majorly talented writer in our midst.