Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel

Lucy Clark is 29, drug addled, and the daughter of a scientist responsible for developing a lethal strain of plague that threatens to destroy the human race. But who has time to worry about the plague when you’re dating a chicken executioner looking for a womb to host his dead wife’s frozen eggs, are still pining for your lost love who married your best friend, and have to take care of your 12 year old death-obsessed half sister, crack-addicted CEO mother, and Norwegian grandmother who charmingly spends her time charting people’s past lives?

I requested this tragicomedy from the LibraryThing ER program because it promised to be bizarre and apocalyptic – an irresistible combination. Lucy narrates in first person, and most of the crazy comes from seeing the world through her unfocused eyes, though most of the other characters know how to bring it too.

It’s a dense novel – reading it is akin to picking your way through the underbrush of a wild, virgin forest – and after having spent most of my literary escapades lately careening through vast expanses of open meadows complete with prancing ponies – it took quite a bit of patience to get through. But if you can summon up the patience, it is richly rewarding. Even with a zany, preposterous (one hopes at least) plot, at the sentence level the writing is breathtaking. And Debut Author Fiona Maazel juggles the trippy narrative arcs of the characters with ease, even giving past lives a chance to tell their own stories.

Hard to choose a favorite scene, but I loved when Lucy talks about the books 12 year old Hannah is reading/defacing:

Home is me watching her rip pages from When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. I have begun canvassing moms at the plant to see what their kids are reading, just to keep Hannah on par. Kathleen, who works in legal, said her thirteen year old went nuts for The Face on the Milk Carton, which is about a lactose intolerant girl, who in the thrall of dairy addiction, reaches for the very carton bearing her likeness, which suggests, in all probability that she was kidnapped as a toddler. I imagine the degree of wish fulfillment advanced in this novel has girls all over America going wonky. Certainly Hannah would love to think she’s been kidnapped – that her real family is living in a hot-air balloon traversing the skies of Malaysia. Yesterday I found her editing with black marker a page from the YA novel Rat Boys: A Dating Experience. The premise? Girls needing prom dates abracadabra rats into prom dates, only Hannah does not like the word date, so she’s swapped it out for the considerably more topical death. Girls needing prom death turn rats into prom death. (p. 138)

And the end? Well, it’s not wrapped neatly in a bow, but it does fit the title. Because what is a last last chance anyway? Infinite chances really. Which is the perfect theme to tie all the disparate threads of this novel together – the addict trying to get clean, reincarnation, and even a slate-wiping mega disaster like a plague or the flood that killed everyone but Noah’s family on the ark.

Last Last Chance is out in paperback now. Find out more about it at


Sadako said...

Aww, I'm glad that made you think of me. And yeah...I think when I read I felt a lot of wish fulfillment as a kid. I'm not sure why. "Ooh, I was kidnapped" isn't really my fantasy anymore.

Last Last Chance looks really awesome. Chicken executioner looking for a womb to host his dead wife's eggs? I'm sold! :)

Heidi Willis said...

wow - that's a trippy plot!! As a writer I always wonder how people come up with such characters full of - well - character.

I love your reviews, too. I feel like I know what I'm getting into when I pick up a book after hearing what you have to say. Thanks!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Sadako - I was kidnapped WAS a big one of mine, until maybe 12? And can you believe Rat Boys is a real novel. I looked it up.

Heidi - Thank you! I try my best. Daniel thought it was a little over the top, but I was just keeping in tone with the book itself. Gotta have some fun sometimes!

Kelly said...

I don't think I could concentrate enough right now for a dense novel...I think the heat has fried my brain.

But I'll add it to the old "TBR When the Brain Functions Again" list!

Great review!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Kelly - My brain is pretty fried right now too!

Readingjunky said...

Sounds like quite a book. Nice review.

JKB said...

Man, I just read that review, and thought that would be a book I'd love to read!

Very cool!

Beth F said...

The plot summary is just too funny.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

This sounds so completely bizarre - I think I'd adore it :)

Thanks for the review, this is going straight on my shopping list!!

Anonymous said...

Much obliged. Thanks for reading!

The Author

Anna said...

This book sounds like nothing I've read before. I'm always looking for a unique plot. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

Diary of an Eccentric