Fun at the Apocalypse: Fiona Maazel’s Last Last Chance

Last Last ChanceDrug addiction. A superplague pandemic. Chicken farms. Vikings. Reincarnation. Does this crazy melange of elements sound like the makings of a comedy to you?

Well, it is. A darned fine one, in fact. I have to confess, when a friend recommended Last Last Chance, the debut novel by writer Fiona Maazel, and I read that it was about drug addiction and recovery, my first reaction was “Ugh.” Having never been there nor done that, I can’t say addiction/recovery novels are up there in the top tier of favorite genres for me. But, I trust my friend’s judgment and taste, so started to read. I loved it, but think I gave myself whiplash from the number of times I shook my head going “Wha-huh???”

The novel’s protagonist is Lucy, daughter of a former scientist at the Centers for Disease Control who took his own life after vials of a plague he’d developed were stolen from his lab. Lucy is the kind of person who misses her best friend’s wedding because she transposes the dates – or maybe is too high to remember the date. But she’s got nothing on her mother Isifrid, whose habit makes Lucy’s own addiction look like the Tinker Toy version:

It was not often I looked at her anymore. The woman in my head had been gone for so long, I seemed to forget Mother didn’t die with her. Surely no one would believe they were the same person. The woman in my head could open a beer bottle with her teeth. No chips or cracks. She’d leave the house with no makeup and get praised for it. A guy who made wigs for celebrities frequently petitioned for her thicket of hair, which she could wrap around her head like a scarf. How long since I’d seen that woman? At least fifteen years. But I still missed her.

The reason I chose that excerpt is that it shows how, as messed up as this family is – and trust me, I haven’t even dented the surface of the dysfunction – there is an underpinning of love that steadies the novel in all its whacked-out craziness. Lucy’s mother Isifrid, her grandmother Aggie, her half-sister Hannah, and Lucy are painted with very deft strokes, so that even as you cannot believe how screwed up they are (except for Aggie, who’s a rock), you still really like them and root for them.

Maazel has written a seriously dark comedy that leaves you cringing as you laugh. But she manages to insert some true poignancy into the book as well. The ending of Last Last Chance is one of the most moving conclusions I’ve ever read in a novel. It’s that good.

So even if the strongest drug you’ve ever ingested is Tylenol Maximum Strength, and even if thinking about chicken farms has you contemplating veganism, find this book and read it. It’s a wild ride.

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2 Responses to “Fun at the Apocalypse: Fiona Maazel’s Last Last Chance”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Thanks for the recommedation – it sounds great! Now I’ve got something to go spend my 40% off coupon for Borders on!

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    You won’t be disappointed, I promise!!

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