by Fiona Maazel; New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, 337 pages, $25
Ms. Perry is provider relations manager at Community Services Network of West Tennessee, Inc., Cordova.
When a lethal strain of virus vanishes from a lab in Washington, D.C., letting a super-plague loose on the world, Lucy Clark's father, a chemist, is blamed for its release. He promptly commits suicide, leaving his incredibly dysfunctional family to deal with the aftermath. The characters of Lucy and her mother, Isifrid, half-sister Hannah, and grandmother Agneth are developed in a hilarious fashion as we learn of their eccentricities. Lucy works in a kosher chicken processing plant. Isifrid sells high-end ladies' hats and studies Norse pagan theology. Hannah is obsessed with the plague and is a staunch believer in Christian fundamentalism. Agneth believes in reincarnation, and in Last Last Chance, her beliefs are proven to be right. Lucy's lover, Stanley, possesses his dead wife's frozen eggs, and they are interviewing for an appropriate surrogate to become the incubator for their yet-to-be conceived children.
From the first pages, drug addiction is also developed skillfully as a central supporting character. The author weaves the face of a drug addict into every story line in the book with deadly accuracy in detail. In the opening chapter, Lucy, an addict, is making plans to attend her oldest and best friend's wedding after a period of alienation. She goes to great lengths to buy just the right outfits for herself and Stanley and practices what she will say to her friend, Kam, and her fiancée when they are reunited. Unfortunately, she learns all too late that she has missed the wedding, because she was high when she looked at the invitation and misread the date.
After this mistake, Lucy binges on drugs and eventually enters rehab at the insistence of her mother, who is also an addict. Lucy is in rehab when the super-plague surfaces and thousands of people begin to die. Her mother brings the family to rehab to hide from authorities who are seeking information about her dead husband's involvement in releasing the virus. She brings drugs, which Lucy helps herself to. When they are caught, Lucy's mother faces the painful fact that she must come to terms with her own addiction.
Last Last Chance is creative, entertaining, and honest. Mental health professionals, especially drug counselors, will both enjoy and learn from this comic novel. The story explores the extent to which drug addiction influences and devastates people's lives, while leaving the door open for hope. This is seen when Lucy takes advantage of the chance to rehabilitate herself—in this case, her last last chance.