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A professor of fiction at Oberlin College, Chaon skillfully weaves together three distinct stories in his critically-acclaimed novel. The second story involves Jay and his newly-discovered adult son, Ryan, who we meet nearly bleeding to death after someone has cut off his left hand late one night in rural Michigan. The third plotline involves Miles, who drives more than 4,000 miles to the remote Arctic outpost of Inuvik in Canada in search of his long-lost twin brother, Hayden. Such stories initially seem unrelated. But as the characters crisscross the globe and the novel jumps back and forth in time, we gradually realize these people have a lot in common besides their desire to reinvent themselves. Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of Chaon's ingenious yet plausible plot twists.
Await Your Reply raises fascinating questions about personal identity that sound like they came straight out of the Matrix movies or Philip K. Dick novels if they had been set mostly in middle America. Are we who we are for life? Or can we truly transform ourselves as George tells Lucy? And if we can change and actually do so, who are we if we are no longer ourselves? Do our former selves cease to exist? Or are these old personalities simply set aside just in case someone else wants to become that person? If so, does that mean a personality can temporarily exist without a person?
Chaon has narrator Kirby Heyborne to thank for making such seemingly bizarre questions, plots, and characters sound plausible in this performance of Await Your Reply. Heyborne's meticulous tone perfectly matches Chaon's carefully chosen words. And, like many of the people in the novel, Heyborne has a mild-mannered way of speaking that gives the characters an innocent, honest quality. We instinctually believe everything Heyborne says because he sounds as honest as the Midwesterners he brings to life. Don't be fooled things are not always what they seem as we gradually discover in Chaon's slow-burning thriller hidden inside a high-minded house of mirrors. Ken Ross
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.
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.
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.
A gorgeously written psychological study, and a meditation on identity in the modern world, this is a literary novel with the haunting momentum of a thriller.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rob Prindle on 12-04-09
Well Narrated, but Thoroughly Depressing
Funny - or maybe not funny - but promising American writers like Dan Chaon tend to define literary realism as 'devoid of any human feelings aside from deep morbid depression.' Sure, it's well written, but each character that is introduced in Await Your Reply is less interesting and more dislikable than the last. There isn't a grain of humor in this book. If that is realism, let's have some fantasy.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By S. Murphy on 11-12-09
Beautifully Written, Beautifully Read
I found the story and characters engrossing, and could not have been more delighted with the way Kirby Heyborne performed it. As he spoke for each of the characters, there were subtle, but noticeable changes in voicing and "melody." His reading supported and enhanced the text for me.
Chaon makes a main character, who is essentially a sociopath, human, which is to say never fully understandable, but utterly recognizable. The other characters, touched and often injured by this man seem as real as if I had actually met them. A nice blend of interior monologue, exterior interaction and beautiful writing. Reminded me of Michael Cunningham, whose work I also admire. Five stars.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful