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Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
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Await Your Reply

by Dan Chaon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,192None6,726 (3.85)112
  1. 10
    You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon (LynnB)
  2. 10
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (infiniteletters)
  3. 00
    The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel (baystateRA)
    baystateRA: Similar tone of underlying tension in tangentially connected stories. Both excellent!
  4. 00
    Travel Writing by Peter Ferry (jilld17)
  5. 00
    The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (meganharris)
    meganharris: Shares similarities in alternating story line with Await Your Reply.
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Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
This novel turned out to be an extremely pleasant surprise. In part, it benefited in my reading from my recalling very little about it other than that I had added it to a "to read" list back when I read a review of it. The me of back then had okayed it, so the me of right now didn't need to revisit the review or even the book description. I got to experience the book in a way that is relatively rare: I didn't know much at all about it. I had no expectations.

It turns out, having no guide as to what is going on in this book is a big benefit, because it takes a long time for the threads of the three storylines to come come together. The structure of the book and the pace at which the plots develop, allow the reader to learn details when they will have the most effect. The echoes and bits of foreshadowing help bring into focus certain common notes between the concurrent narratives. The shifting points of view also provide insight. This is a book that rewards a reader's attention to detail.

With his focus on the problem of identity, Chaon seems to have much in common with Paul Auster, one of my favorite writers. Thankfully, he does not seem to want merely to go over the same ground as Auster, but to take on the slipperiness of identity in the context of our current hyperconnected world.

Finally, this book scores high on the matter of intrigue and plot as well, something that other, more purely meditative books don't always do. So therefore, in the words of Library Journal: Highly recommended. ( )
  phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
Let's call it 3.5 stars.

Though I didn't like this as much as another book ([b:Sometimes a Great Notion|529626|Sometimes a Great Notion|Ken Kesey|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1175561028s/529626.jpg|1308344]) that begins with a severed appendage I ended up liking it more than I expected. I didn't really connect with any of the characters on any emotional level but I was kept interested enough to want to find out what happens.

There were some bits of dialogue that were a bit awkward but that was forgiven by the use of "the fucking fantods" on page 203. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
This novel switches between three stories that converge for a surprise ending.

Story #1: Miles Cheshire is searching for his twin brother, Hayden. It's a fruitless search, motivated by a combination of love and pity. Hayden is crazy - a schizophreniac. As a child, he was tormented by horrible nightmares that eventually crept into his waking existence. By the time he was a teenager, Hayden's sense of reality was terribly corrupted - he couldn't tell the difference between events as they happened and as he imagined them, on a personal and global level. Finally, Hayden was put in a mental institution - but he escaped, and Miles hasn't seen his brother since then, ten years earlier. Hayden sends Miles clues as to his whereabouts, and Miles always tries to use those clues to locate Hayden. But before he can track his brother down, Hayden slips out of reach. In AWAIT YOUR REPLY, Miles is driving north through Canada to the Arctic Circle. He knows that he's on another wild goose chase, that he probably won't find his brother, but he can't help but try.

Story #2: Ryan is failing out of college when he gets a phone call from his uncle Jay, who has some surprising news: Ryan isn't the biological child of his parents, as he'd always assumed. Jay says he is Ryan's real father, explaining that he got his girlfriend pregnant as a teenager but the girlfriend didn't want an abortion and wasn't ready to be a parent. Ryan ended up being raised by Jay's sister, who couldn't have children of her own. Jay thinks it's his duty to let Ryan know the truth, and Ryan, already at a crisis point, makes a radical decision: he drops out of college and moves to Michigan with Jay. Once in Michigan, he's quickly wrapped up in Jay's illegal money-making scheme, identity theft. When we meet Ryan, he's been with his father long enough for things to go terribly wrong - and Jay leaves Ryan to take the fall.

Story #3: Lucy is a brilliant senior in high school whose life is crumbling around her - her parents have died in a car crash, she's living with her older sister who can barely make ends meet for the two of them, and overconfidence leads her to apply to only three colleges: Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. When she's rejected from all three, Lucy doesn't know what to do - but her high school history teacher, George Orson, has an idea. He asks her to run away with him, he promises her a life of wealth and leisure, and Lucy decides it's the best option she has. But instead of international travel and luxury, Lucy finds herself living in a creepy, abandoned hotel with an increasingly distant George Orson. He assures her a bright future is just around the corner, but Lucy is increasingly aware that she's involving herself in a very, very bad situation.

AWAIT YOUR REPLY is a very clever novel, but it's also psychologically astute. The writing is good, the characters vivid and real. I was very surprised by the final reveal, but at the same time it seemed like it should have been obvious all along - I think this is a sign of a truly well crafted surprise ending. Worth the read.
( )
1 vote MlleEhreen | Sep 20, 2013 |
Unlikely to stand as the definitive book about identity theft, but it had some interesting notions that make it a worthwhile read. ( )
  mabroms | Sep 3, 2013 |
I'd give it a higher review if mental illness wasn't on my radar as anything but entertaining. Too dark for this period in my life. INCREDIBLE writing though. A great novel. Fleshed out characters. Looking forward to this author coming to Steamboat. ( )
  Micalhut | Aug 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
It’s hard to talk about Await Your Reply at length without giving too much away. In fact, the less you know about the novel going in, the better. Chaon does a great job of shifting the novel’s chronology around to trickle the plotlines out as he sees fit. It’s a gimmick that could have been hackneyed, but Chaon makes it work here. He seems more interested in filling in the lives of his characters than constructing some complex whodunit — and the result is a more nuanced, creepy affair than sensory jarring thriller.
 
[A] dark, deliciously disturbing literary thriller... Await Your Reply is a story that unfolds with chilling precision. You'll be spellbound from start to finish.
added by Shortride | editPeople, Michelle Green (Aug 31, 2009)
 
You need to step into this work of psychological suspense completely unprepared for what lurks in here. If somebody starts telling you what they liked best, put your fingers in your ears and sing: "La, la, la, la!" But you can trust me -- which is just what all the manipulative creeps in this novel say.
added by SqueakyChu | editThe Washington Post, Ron Charles (Aug 26, 2009)
 
Chaon is a dark, provocative writer, and “Await Your Reply” is a dark, provocative book; in bringing its three strands together, Chaon has fashioned a braid out of barbed wire.
 
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Epigraph
I myself, from the very beginning, Seemed to myself like someone's dream or delirium or a reflection in someone else's mirror, without flesh, without meaning, without a name. Already a list of crimes that I was destined to commit. Anna Akhmatova "Northern Eagles"
Dedication
For Sheila
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We are on our way to the hospital, Ryan's father says.
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Book description
The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways--and with unexpected consequences--in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself--through unconventional and precarious means.
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While Miles pursues elusive letters and clues in a perpetual search for his missing twin, Ryan struggles with the discovery that he is adopted, and Lucy finds her daring escape from her hometown posing unexpectedly dangerous consequences.

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