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May 4, 2009

Book Club: Last Chance by Fiona Maazel

This month the book group tackles lost love, addiction, and a deadly super-plague in Fiona Maazel's Last Last Chance. Worth tossing in the beach bag? Read on . . .

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last chance by fiona maazel

Last Chance, by Fiona Maazel

Photo Credit: Rebecca Greenfield

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THE PLOT: Lucy Clark is one messed-up chick. Not only has the 29-year-old been in and out of drug rehab since high school, her well-to-do mother is addicted to crack, her socially awkward half-sister is dabbling in Christian fundamentalism, and her disease-specialist father, who hanged himself, created a lethal virus that was stolen by terrorists. Oh, and the love of her life just married her oldest friend . . . Any chance Lucy will emerge intact?

LEA (FEATURES EDITOR): I thought this book was unreadable—the narrative was confusing and pretentious. And I think Maazel tried soooo hard to be edgy that by page 50 I was itching for Lucy to overdose. The fact that her Upper East Side mom was using crack--that to me is a perfect example of Maazel trying too hard. My mom doesn't do coke, she does crack! Crack is also whack as a plot device.

LAUREN (ARTICLES EDITOR): And why the theme of reincarnation? Every other chapter, Maazel would introduce these random Viking characters who spoke in broken English and who were supposed to be Lucy's ancestors. It was overwrought and unnecessary. It did nothing for the main story, which is dealing with addiction, heartbreak, a crazy mother, a weird sister, a mass epidemic—all of which I kind of liked.

JESSICA (SENIOR EDITOR): Well, if you just skip those chapters, it was a quirky read. I liked the writing—she has a distinct voice and rhythm, and there was funny stuff in there! That Lucy called the family's cook by whatever dish she served last, like Jumbo Prawn; and the line, "Every gathering has a guest who thinks she can't possibly outstay her welcome." That's me!

YAEL (ASSOCIATE EDITOR): I agree. And I liked how Lucy was this unsympathetic, narcissistic druggie who can't get over herself while the whole world may be coming to an end. That worked for me.

LAUREN: I liked Lucy's geeky grasp of all the science stuff--how she would start spewing this random information about avian flu, West Nile, and St. Louis encephalitis that she learned from her dad.

LEA: Right. Actually, it seems like women going full science nerd is the new literary thing. You have Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances and Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Very different books, but why are women suddenly writing about chemistry and meteorology? I guess another cool thing about the book is how it's not just for women, per se. Men might get into the sci-fi aspect. But the most resonant thing for me was this longing for her ex.

JESSICA: Yes. Her relationship with him totally reminded me of how we idealize old relationships—like the way she'd create a crazy dialogue with him in her head. And I liked it when Maazel wrote, "Moving on is a horrible process." Because it's true. It sucks sometimes. And that was kind of what the whole book was about.

SHOULD YOU READ IT?
LAUREN: NO
YAEL: YES
JESSICA: YES
LEA: NO

» To read our full conversation, get more book reviews, and to add your thoughts, visit Marie Claire's Book Club.


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