In Fiona Maazel's follow-up to her acclaimed debut Last Last Chance
, love inspires a woman to spend a decade cloaked in wigs, prosthetic noses and fat suits, tracking her estranged husband around the world. She, Esme, is a kind of freelancer for the FBI, and he, Thurlow, is the leader of a self-help cult called The Helix, which is in the unfortunate process of morphing into a blow-up-the-world organization. Esme and Thurlow live in a sui generis fictional universe populated by off-kilter characters, hare-brained schemes, accidental political movements and constant surveillance. In her attempts to save Thurlow before it's too late, Esme enlists an unwitting squadron of four lost souls, each plagued by his or her own particular brand of unremitting loneliness. While these four ingratiate themselves into the Helix, Thurlow, who has made a career out of promising to save people from isolation and despair ("Loneliness is changing our DNA," he tells a crowd of supplicants) is suffering from the deepest loneliness of all. Maazel's insights are as sound as her imagination is wild. For what is life, anyway, really, if not our own madcap attempts to connect to others? And what is family if not, in Maazel's crackling language, an "arrangement of lives vectored to and from each other, whole universes given home?"