Lucy Clark, anti-heroine and primary narrator of Fiona Maazel’s debut novel, Last Last Chance, has a handful of sorrows in her life. She’s addicted to painkillers at the same time that her wealthy and distant mother is addicted to crack. Her best friend from childhood has just married the only man that Lucy ever loved. Her 12-year-old half-sister is in danger of being wooed away by a neo-fascist fundamentalist day camp. And, on top of everything, America is seized with anger and paranoia over an outbreak of an unstoppable “superplague,” that, as rumor has it, was created and spread by Lucy’s father, who has just committed suicide. It is no surprise, then, that Lucy’s narration brims with resignation and self-loathing, even as the comic underside of this quick-paced, mischievous novel asserts itself. “When I was eighteen,” Lucy says, “I was already fixated on subway tracks… I could never throw myself before a speeding train, but surely I could wait for one to come along.”
Maazel, while allowing herself many wistful divergences, does not lose sight of her central thematic tension, which is the difference between the internal hopelessness of addiction and the external hopelessness of an apocalypse. Some of the most potent and oddly comic moments in the novel come when this intersection is most apparent: “What’s the fucking point of rehab when we’re all going to die?” Lucy asks during a disastrous intervention for her mother. It’s hard not to understand where she’s coming from. Indeed, during the novel’s first half, one would be hard-pressed to find any semblance of a silver lining for Lucy and her fractured family amidst the dystopian despair. Were it not for Maazel’s irreverent and playful language, a reader might feel too withered and beaten, just like Lucy, and be unable to go on. There is, however, evidence of the opportunity promised by the novel’s title. Even in the face of so much certain doom, Lucy knows that “to love and be loved” is all that she wants, and, despite everything, this thought keeps her moving toward the possibility of some small, living reincarnation.