Monday, May 13, 2013

Woke Up Lonely: "One must learn to love one's people ardently"

A cult called Helix dedicated to alleviating loneliness. A secret city of vice underneath Cincinnati. Kim Jung-il. In Woke Up Lonely, Fiona Maazel brings all these oddities (and many, many more) together in a terrifically original novel that leaves you asking yourself the question all really good fiction seems to provoke: "Just how in the hell did she do that?"

It's an intricately constructed tale, but it's not complicated. It's funnier than hell, but also rather sad at its root. And it's social satire without overt political commentary (though there are definitely some jabs here and there). I think you'll love it. I did!

The story is of a guy named Thurlow Dan, who has started the cult Helix to bring people together in an America increasingly fraught with loneliness. It's 2005 and we're at war. The country's divided and social media and the ease of access of information is supposed to bring us closer together. Thurlow Dan's wife Esme is a spy, and the two haven't seen each other for 10 years, since their daughter Ida was born -- that is until the opening scene of the novel. But is it really a random encounter?

Then, enter four odd characters, each with some quirks and more than a little bit of baggage, and each with a different connection to Helix. Their ties to Helix is how they all become connected to each other -- and it soon is clear that they're all being manipulated ("people who were dead inside would do most anything," muses Esme), but is it by Helix or against Helix, or just what the hell is going on?

Be patient, all is revealed -- and man, is it fun seeing how it all fits together. Along the way, we also get the stories of Esme's and Thurlow Dan's pockmarked pasts. Is Thurlow Dan really in cahoots with North Korea? Did Esme ever really love him, or has it all been an act so that she can continue to spy on him and his cult? And what's up with the strange Australian orgy scene?

Just read. All this craziness makes sense in the end. And it's told in a style that, even if you're not totally digging the story, you'll still enjoy. There's some real cleverness and comedy here.And overall, it's just an incredibly fun, incredibly imaginative novel. Highly recommended!


  1. Thanks, Greg! Means a lot to me.

    My best,

  2. I've looked at this novel. It seems wild! Does one have to be really patient to know what's going on? Or is easy in that respect? She sounds like a fun author but wow that a lot to pack in, eh?

    1. I wouldn't say you have to be patient, but you do have to pay attention at the beginning, and then as parts of the story come together, sometimes in surprising ways. It's not difficult to understand, though, if that's your concern. It really is a lot of fun!