Synopses & Reviews
Last Last Chance
, Fiona Maazel's first novel, is one of the most distinctive debuts of recent years: a rollicking comic tale about (in no particular order) plague, narcotics recovery, and reincarnation.
A lethal strain of virus vanishes from a lab in Washington, D.C., unleashing an epidemic and the world thinks Lucy Clark's dead father is to blame. The plague may be the least of Lucy's problems. There's her mother, Isifrid, a peddler of high-end hatwear who's also a crackhead and pagan theologist. There's her twelve-year-old half sister, Hannah, obsessed with disease and Christian fundamentalism; and Lucy's lover, Stanley, who's hell-bent on finding a womb for his dead wife's frozen eggs. Lastly, there's her grandmother Agneth, who believes in reincarnation (and who turns out to be right). And then there is Lucy herself, whose wise, warped approach to life makes her an ideal guide to love among the ruins. Romping across the country, from Southern California to the Texas desert to rural Pennsylvania and New York City, Lucy tries to surmount her drug addiction and to keep her family intact and tells us, uproariously, all about it.
Last Last Chance is a novel about survival and recovery, opportunity and despair, and, finally, love and faith in an age of anxiety. It introduces Maazel as a new writer of phenomenal gifts.
"A sprawling debut with an alternately absurdist and sardonic tone, Maazel's debut follows the tribulations of Lucy, a young drug addict who works at a New York City kosher chicken plant. Lucy's father was a Centers for Disease Control bigwig who's recently committed suicide, presumably due to fallout from his perceived role in an outbreak of plague that is spreading across America. Her mother, Isifrid, is a crack-addled gazillionaire, while grandmother Agneth talks incessantly of reincarnation, and younger half-sister Hannah harbors a huge obsession with disease. As the novel opens, Lucy sets off with her alcoholic, over-50 co-worker, Stanley, to attend the wedding of her best friend, Kam who is marrying Eric, whom Lucy met first and fell in love with. After some hijinks, Lucy heads to a rehab facility in Texas. Over the course of Lucy's wild road trip, Maazel, daughter of conductor Loren, delivers some electric writing: the novel is brimming with wit, ideas and delightfully screwball humor. But the whimsy undermines the story, especially on the abundant substance abuse material. The novel's earnest, surprising conclusion feels out of sync with the zingy, existential banter of its core." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Last Last Chance isn't your average novel, thanks in no small part to Maazel's funny, lacerating prose." New York Times
"Read this book now for the sentence-by-sentence brilliance of Maazel's inimitable voice, and enjoy it to the finish for its sophisticated and vulnerable portrayal of survival of the individual and the world-at-large, despite so much stacked against both. Maazel was born in 1975, but her imagination has been on fire for 1000 years." Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End
"Somehow Fiona Maazel has made plague funny and the drug recovery narrative, ossified by predictable writers and their wounds, fresh and moving again. Last Last Chance is a stylish first wonder." Sam Lipsyte
"Last Last Chance is not for the faint of heart or dim of humour. It's wicked, witty, a little whacked and surprisingly warm: what more did you want?" Wesley Stace, author of Misfortune and By George
"You have to look to Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son for a narrative voice as darkly funny and drug-inflected as Maazel's. This sprawling, wonderfully digressive novel is up to the task at hand: love at the end of the world as we know it." Amy Hempel
"Fiona Maazel's novel Last Last Chance turns heartsickness, family dysfunction, substance abuse and a superplague into the sharpest and most forgiving comedy you will find between two covers. It is an absurdist generational saga that ranges widely for its wisdom, shows no mercy in its satire, and stakes out hopeful truths to dwell in during troubling times." Benjamin Anastas, author of An Underachiever's Diary and The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance
"Vigor in every line and a wit about bodies, drugs and plague that forms a positively original voice of our day." Barry Hannah, author of Yonder Stands Your Orphan
"Maazel's descriptive powers are strong, and she captures the alternating hope and despair of her complex and quirky characters as they confront the unknown and the unknowable." Library Journal
"Maazel's novel succeeds because she avoids clichés populating rehab narratives." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"[F]uses the outrageous apocalyptic vision of Chuck Palahniuk's fiction and the cerebral dark comedy of Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics....[Maazel] has pulled off a remarkable feat of the imagination." Newsday
Maazel's first novel is one of the most distinctive debuts of recent years: arollicking comic tale about plagues, narcotics recovery, and reincarnation inan age of anxiety.
A Time Out New York Best Book of the Year
Named one of the 5 Best Writers Under 35 by the National Book Foundation
Includes an Author Interview and Discussion Questions
A lethal strain of virus vanishes from a lab in Washington, D.C., unleashing an epidemic--and the world thinks Lucy Clark's father is to blame. The plague may be the least of Lucy's problems. There's her mother, Isifrid, a peddler of high-end hatwear who's also a crackhead; her twelve-year-old half sister, Hannah, obsessed with disease and Christian fundamentalism; and Lucy's lover, Stanley, who's hell-bent on finding a womb for his dead wife's frozen eggs. Finally, there's Lucy herself, who tries to surmount her drug addiction and keep her family intact in this brilliant novel about survival and recovery, opportunity and apocalypse, and, finally, love and faith in an age of anxiety.
About the Author
Fiona Maazel, born in 1975, was the 2005 Lannan Foundation fiction fellow. She lives in Brooklyn.
Reading Group Guide
1. Lucy struggles with self-loathing and a sense of worthlessness. Why do you think she feels this way? Nature or nurture? Do you blame her neglecting parents or something else?
2. On p.35, Lucy describes how she fell in love with Eric, but that this love wasnt enough to stop or even curb her drug abuse. Why not? Why might the support and presence of someone you love not be enough to help a person like Lucy cope with her suffering?
3. Similarly, Lucy is convinced that rehabs and therapy—basically all the services available to people with problems—will not work for her. Why does she think so? What do you think she has to surmount before shes able to believe she can change or be helped?
4. Throughout Last Last Chance, the narrative gives voice to the main characters after they have died, or before they were born. How do these scenes affect the overall tone of the novel? Are they meant to give the action in the story a spiritual setting? To create some historical patterns? Do these voices help explain anything about Lucy and her family? How so?
5. A lot of the characters in the novel do awful things and behave badly, and yet you still root for them. Why? Do you root for some characters more than others?
6. At her grandmothers funeral, Lucy despairs about not being able to cry because she cant express her emotions like everyone else. Why do you think shes so withdrawn and stunted in her emotional development? What accounts for the sense of disconnect between her and the rest of the world?
7. When Lucys mother, Isifrid, narrates her story, do you believe her explanation for why and how she became a drug addict? Can you think of other reasons why her life turned out so badly? Do you think she loves Lucy at all? Do you think that anyone could have saved her, or was her case always hopeless?
8. Why do you think Maazel chose to write a novel about a character trying to kick her drug addiction in the midst of a plague? Is there something about the panic and sickness of a plague that seems to mirror the experiences of the addict?
9. Do you think Maazels account of what could happen in the advent of a biological attack seems realistic? Do you think youd react and behave the way people in the novel do? If not, what might you do instead?
10. What do you think is going to happen to Hannah? Do you think shell ever forgive Lucy? Should she? Is there a chance she could turn out a drug addict like her mother and her sister? Why or why not?
11. When Isifrid has a breakdown in Texas, Lucy is stirred to grief and wishes she could pray for her despite her reservations about God and prayer in general. How is she able to make that leap? Do you think that helping others might help Lucy overcome her own suffering?
12. Are Lucy and Stanley are a good match? What do you think they see in each other?
13. Do you think the plague will end, and things will go back to normal? Or will things only get worse? Will they ever catch the lunatic who unleashed the plague? Are we meant to have hope about the future of the world at the end? Are we meant to have hope for Lucy?
14. Have you or anyone you know ever experienced addiction or rehab? Do you think the feelings Lucy expresses are universal?