Last Last Chance, Fiona Maazel, Picador
It is as if Fiona Maazel was unable to decide whether to write zombie fiction, chick lit, or a rehab memoir, so she crammed all into one and called it a novel. It is a purely unsavory combination; a failed attempt at maudlin quirk told in all the cutesy hipness of modern vernacular (incomplete sentences: sassy!). Worse, it employs the banalities of 12-step language (“If you can’t believe, just believe I believe. It’s enough.”).
A mysterious “Superplague” is marauding the country, and imminent doom is everyone’s forecast. Our heroine is Lucy, who indulges in every kind of drug a bit of Internet research might reveal the names of. Lucy returns to New York from her job at a kosher chicken plant with a slovenly lover twenty years her senior. They join Lucy’s family: her crack-smoking socialite mother, her brainy and disillusioned kid sister, and a grandmother obsessed with Norse mythology and reincarnation. The latter introduces yet another regrettable device to the narrative: we begin to encounter random chapters from the points of view of dead people. None of this drives toward a coherent end.
Despite the spread of death and the wholesale breakdown of the social order, Lucy still prattles endlessly about how her ex-boyfriend married her best friend and how she fears she may never truly love. Mom and daughter disappear to rehab in a Texas, which only exists in movies from the seventies. There someone is bludgeoned to death and immediately we have to endure a chapter detailing his entire chain of crappy lives. Every moment from this point on when someone dies they likewise get a chapter. Lucy starts praying.
With all of the imaginative elements the story involves, it is the main character’s drug use that comes across as the least believable. Except for the physical manifestations of imbibing, her manner is unchanged; the drugs merely provide a springboard for her self-deprecation. The symptoms of withdrawal, unfortunately for the reader, give her something more to complain. The book is a horror, a grossly bastardized Vonnegut tale poorly rendered.