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Woke Up Lonely

Cover of Woke Up Lonely

Woke Up Lonely

Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness. With its communes and speed-dating, mixers and confession sessions, the Helix has become a national phenomenon—and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely—for his ex-wife, Esme, and their daughter, whom he hasn't seen in ten years. Esme, for her part, is a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly to protect him from the law. Now, with her superiors demanding results, she recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. But when Thurlow takes them hostage, he ignites a siege of the Helix House that will change all their lives forever.

Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness. With its communes and speed-dating, mixers and confession sessions, the Helix has become a national phenomenon—and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely—for his ex-wife, Esme, and their daughter, whom he hasn't seen in ten years. Esme, for her part, is a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly to protect him from the law. Now, with her superiors demanding results, she recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. But when Thurlow takes them hostage, he ignites a siege of the Helix House that will change all their lives forever.

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About the Author-
  • Fiona Maazel is the author of Last Last Chance, and Woke Up Lonely. She won the Bard Prize for Fiction, and a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, and elsewhere. She teaches at Brooklyn College, New York University, Columbia, and Princeton, and was appointed the Picador Guest Professor at the University of Leipzig, Germany, for the spring of 2012. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Bernadette Dunne's talents are well matched to this offbeat novel about a man who, although being the founder of a worldwide cult to combat loneliness, cannot reconnect with his estranged, elusive wife and their young daughter. Dunne fluidly alters her voice to project the characters' ages and personalities--gravelly and tired, soft and easygoing, sardonically optimistic--varying her tempo and inflections as required to color thoughts and speech with the wide range of required emotions. Despite Dunne's near-flawless performance, this audiobook can be a challenge because the point of view, timeline, and setting change abruptly, and people appear sporadically and unpredictably. If one's attention drifts for even a moment, one can lose track of the novel's frenetic, spiraling plot. C.B.L. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 21, 2013
    Reviewed by Manuel Gonzales. Maazel’s sprawling and ambitious new novel (after Last Chance) follows the rise and fall of the Helix, a cult of the lonely who believe that true human connection can only arrive with full disclosure. Think Facebook and Twitter but without the pesky computers. Speed dates, rallies, and confession sessions abound, full of strangers accosting one another to divulge their deepest secrets and most closely held fears, all in the hope of stemming the overwhelming tide of loneliness that is modern existence. Shifting between Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, Ohio, Maazel’s novel pivots off the controversial 2000 presidential election, creating a fictional United States full of people ripe to band together in an ambiguous fight against loneliness and powerlessness. In the center of it all is Thurlow Dan, estranged from his wife and daughter, who began the Helix to fight his own solitude, but who, despite his hundreds of thousands of followers, remains the loneliest man on Earth. To make matters worse, branches of the Helix want armed revolution, the U.S. government has deemed Dan and the Helix public enemy number one, and in a desperate effort to win back Esme, his ex-wife, who is a covert CIA operative, Thurlow creates a hostage situation that threatens to bring everything tumbling down around him. Through all of this, Maazel casts herself into the lives of her characters, and it’s through these interludes that the novel obtains most of its heart. Through characters like Ned, who loved his chair “as it did not love him,” and Anne-Janet, survivor of cancer and sexual assault but forever alone and pining for love, Maazel mines disparate and singular modes of loneliness. At turns satiric and heartfelt, Maazel’s novel brims with energy and life. Her wit is dark and acerbic, contrasting sharply against the over-indulgent, over-telling philosophy of the Helix. At times, however, the Helix itself, large and unwieldy and difficult to imagine, becomes an elaborate and somewhat unnecessary set piece that threatens to overshadow what’s best about the novel and Maazel’s skills as a storyteller, namely her exploration of the different shades of loneliness. As one character claims, “just because the energies of the lonely tended to mobilize in vigilant and constant pursuit of an end to loneliness, that did not make their aggregate any less lame,” so, too, can the aggregate energies of Maazel feel somewhat misdirected when the novel returns its focus to the Helix. Regardless, Maazel manages to pair absurd situations and backgrounds with real fear and desire. Maazel shines when she backgrounds the Helix and the satiric elements of her story and penetrates the inner lives of her characters—Dan, Esme, their daughter, Ida, and four bumbling government agents—whose stories are rich and compelling. In those moments—and there are many of them—when she brings forward the doubts and faults of her characters, she shows these to be no less than our own, and then shows us, too, that their moments of triumph—however minor and fleeting, and no matter the obstacles that still stand in the way—can also be ours. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Apr.) Manuel Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories.

  • Publishers Weekly "At turns satiric and heartfelt, Maazel's novel brims with energy and life."
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