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Await Your Reply: A Novel by Dan Chaon
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Await Your Reply: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Dan Chaon

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1,2351316,433 (3.83)121
Member:cnolin
Title:Await Your Reply: A Novel
Authors:Dan Chaon
Info:Ballantine Books (2009), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:read, fiction

Work details

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

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Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
When you want to tell everybody about the book you're reading, you know it's a good one. This book begins like a puzzle. Three different stories are told in alternating chapters. One focuses on a high school teacher who has run away with one of his students. Another is about a man searching for his twin brother, who may or may not be crazy. The third focuses on a man and his grown son who, when we first see them, have been made the victims of a horrible act of violence. While Dan Chaon writes a compellingly about all of them, the reader is left to wonder, "What connection do all these people have to one another?" When the puzzle pieces start coming together so that a picture emerges 3/4 of the way through the book, I was left to think about the author, "Oh, you clever boy!" Finally coming to the very last chapter, I found that Chaon surprised me again. Such a well-written, well-structured book! Certainly deserving of being a finalist for the National Book Award. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
A beautifully layered story about estranged twin brothers and the complexities of identity. Miles has been looking for his twin brother Hayden off and on for several years. Hayden has gone off the map, consumed by his mental illness and convinced of his paranoid fantasies.

The novel cuts between Mile's memories and Hayden's different identities and the false relationships he's formed in one place or another. Unfortunately, Hayden's complex identity theft business is in trouble and truly dangerous people are racing Miles to discover Hayden. ( )
  Juva | Mar 30, 2015 |
[Await Your Reply] is one of those books that enchants the reading world and climbs the best-seller list, but probably shouldn’t. Reader reviews describe it a clever and surprising and suspenseful. Unfortunately, Chaon’s effort in the story seems more focused on being clever and maintaining the suspense for that inevitable surprise than he does on telling a story.

Few readers should be taken in by Chaon’s set up for the book – three apparently unconnected people in unusual situations – as the book’s own marketing telegraphs that their lives will be connected when it’s all finished. Ryan is in a car, driven by a mysterious unknown person, bound for a hospital where he hopes to have his hand reattached to his arm. The arm is in a bucket of ice on the seat as Ryan fades in and out of consciousness. Lucy arrives at an abandoned motel in Nebraska her high school history teacher, having left home in the middle of the night to avoid scandal. The motel sits next to a dry lake bed and sports a lighthouse from the days when the water lapped at the sands. And Miles examines a map of the Arctic Circle after driving thousands of miles to find his mentally unstable and conspiratorially minded brother. In the last pages of the story, they converge around a single person who has appeared in each of their lives, though he’s appeared in disguise.

There are a few moments when Chaon dips below the surface to look more seriously at one of the characters in the story. But for the most part, he is driven by the plot devices he is using to both keep the secret and set up its revelation. The funny thing is, this edition of the book comes with an author interview where Chaon says, “For me, prose and characters come first. Not because I’m an artiste or something, but because that’s the way I discover the world of the story. I wish I could think about plot more deliberately, but I just find that I can’t.” It’s an amazing statement to have written a book so carefully plotted, and then deny that plot ever even came to mind. Chaon is not a bad writer or a bad story teller, but he has been bewitched, like so many other writers chasing publication, with providing a thrill, a clever twist. There’s nothing wrong with a thrill or a twist, but they shouldn’t be the goal.

Bottom Line: A plot driven book, enamored more with the devices that drive the plot than story-telling.

2 bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Feb 28, 2015 |
This is a book about three people with an unknown connection. Miles is looking for his missing twin brother. Lucy left town with her teacher to find money and is stranded in Nebraska. Jay left his family to be with birth father and run cons. Each chapter is told from either Mile's, Lucy's or Jay's point of view. While I read other books using this style, I didn't like it with this book. The ending has a surprising twist that answers most questions but still felt unfinished to me. ( )
  Coltfan18 | Feb 28, 2015 |
Some books are based on a particular idea, concepts, or questions. "Await your reply" is such a book, it is about identity theft and the question how much a person is able to design and shape their own identity. With this idea, Chaon has fashioned a relatively short and engaging novel. There are three main characters: Miles, searching for his twin brother, who changes identities as other people change their telephones; Ryan, who steels identities from others to make a living; and Lucy, who ran away from home in search of a new life. They are all orphans (in one way or another), and over the course of ~300 pages their at first seemingly disconnected stories intertwine.

As with other such books that are conceived from a single starting point I did not really like the book. Sure, it is deftly constructed; take for example the way hints about the interconnection of the three main characters are scattered throughout the book, or how tension is generated toward the end. But here's the big But: There is too much technique and way too little feeling. I found two of the main characters (Miles and Lucy) particularly unlikely and unconvincing. Character development: there is (almost) none.

Taken together: This would have been a really good book about identity if the author had put some work into the, well, identities of his characters. ( )
  flint_riemen | Dec 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (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"
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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