Await Your Reply

Await Your Reply

3.7 95
by Dan Chaon
     
 

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From the award-winning author of Among the Missing, Fitting Ends and You Remind Me of Me, comes an ambitious, gripping, and beautifully written new novel about identity and identity theft—in the tradition of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Case Histories. Three strangers who are trying to find their way in the wake of loss become entwined in an identity theft

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Overview

From the award-winning author of Among the Missing, Fitting Ends and You Remind Me of Me, comes an ambitious, gripping, and beautifully written new novel about identity and identity theft—in the tradition of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Case Histories. Three strangers who are trying to find their way in the wake of loss become entwined in an identity theft scheme, which has a resounding impact on them all. At once a gripping pageturner, 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.

Dan Chaon is the author of Among the Missing, a finalist for the National Book Award, which was also listed as one of the ten best books of the year by the American Library Association, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, and Entertainment Weekly, as well as being cited as a New York Times Notable Book. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and has won both Pushcart and O. Henry awards. Chaon teaches at Oberlin College.

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Editorial Reviews

Lucinda Rosenfeld
Readers be warned: Before sitting down with Dan Chaon's ambitious, gripping and unrelentingly bleak new novel, you might want to catch a "Seinfeld" rerun or two. Jerry and the gang's quips will be the last laugh-lines you'll get for a while…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.
—The New York Times Book Review
Ron Charles
Here's what can be safely revealed about Await Your Reply: It contains three separate stories about people driving away from their homes, abandoning their lives and remaking themselves…Any one of these arresting plots could have sustained the entire book, but Chaon rotates through them chapter by chapter. Not only that, but the chronology of each story is jumbled so that the novel isn't so much cubed as Rubik's Cubed. I know that sounds like a literary headache, but these are engrossing, nerve-racking storylines that continually hand off to one another without breaking stride, leaving us as fascinated as we are disoriented…The result is a novel that succeeds as brilliantly as the short stories that have won him a National Book Award nomination, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…the real pleasure in reading Mr. Chaon is less in finding out where he's headed than in savoring what he accomplishes along the way.…Mr. Chaon succeeds in both creating suspense and making it pay off, but Await Your Reply also does something even better. Like the finest of his storytelling heroes, Mr. Chaon manages to bridge the gap between literary and pulp fiction with a clever, insinuating book equally satisfying to fans of either genre.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Three disparate characters and their oddly interlocking lives propel this intricate novel about lost souls and hidden identities from National Book Award-finalist Chaon (You Remind Me of Me). Eighteen-year-old Lucy Lattimore, her parents dead, flees her stifling hometown with charismatic high school teacher George Orson, soon to find herself enmeshed in a dangerous embezzling scheme. Meanwhile, Miles Chesire is searching for his unstable twin brother, Hayden, a man with many personas who's been missing for 10 years and is possibly responsible for the house fire that killed their mother. Ryan Schuyler is running identity-theft scams for his birth father, Jay Kozelek, after dropping out of college to reconnect with him, dazed and confused after learning he was raised thinking his father was his uncle. Chaon deftly intertwines a trio of story lines, showcasing his characters' individuality by threading subtle connections between and among them with effortless finesse, all the while invoking the complexities of what's real and what's fake with mesmerizing brilliance. This novel's structure echoes that of his well-received debut-also a book of threes-even as it bests that book's elegant prose, haunting plot and knockout literary excellence. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
People
In the end, Await Your Reply is a story that unfolds with chilling precision. You'll be spellbound from start to finish. 4 stars)
—Michelle Green
Library Journal

Miles Cheshire is driving from Cleveland to Alaska in search of his disturbed twin brother, Hayden, another leg of a crusade that has consumed him for more than a decade. Ryan Schuyler is 19 when he discovers that he is adopted and his real father, a con man who deals in fraud and identity theft, now wants Ryan to live with him. Orphaned Lucy Lattimore leaves town with her former high school history teacher when his dreams of riches and travel fill the hole in her life. This chillingly harsh work by Chaon (You Remind Me of Me) will make you question your own identity and sense of time. His characters live on the outskirts of society, even of their own lives. Yet we are compelled to read about them, driven to see it through. VERDICT This novel is unrelenting, like the scene of an accident: we are repulsed by the blood, but we cannot look away. For fans of pulse-pounding drama, Chaon never fails to impress. (With an eight-city tour; library marketing.) [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/1/09.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal


—Bette-Lee Fox
Kirkus Reviews
A sprinter who excels at the 100-yard dash may never attempt a marathon. A poet who composes haiku might not be able to sustain an epic. Though writers of short stories are almost invariably encouraged to become novelists-a contract for a debut story collection is typically a bet hedged against the longer work to come-some authors who master the former don't seem as well suited to the latter. Maybe it's a question of scope, or even artistic stamina, but the novel requires a different mindset. It isn't just a longer story. Ohio's Dan Chaon, whose two collections established him as one of America's most promising short story writers, returns this fall with a second novel, Await Your Reply, easily his most ambitious work to date. As in his stories and previous novel (You Remind Me of Me, 2004), this book focuses on family dynamics, the quest for identity and the essence of the Heartland-in some ways, Chaon is to the Midwest what Richard Russo is to the Northeast-but the structure has an innovative audacity missing from his earlier, more straightforward work. The novel initially seems to be three separate narratives, presented in round-robin fashion, connected only by some plot similarities (characters on a quest or on the lam, a tragic loss of parents) and thematic underpinnings (the chimera of identity). One narrative concerns a college dropout who learns that the man he thought was his uncle is really his father, who recruits him for some criminal activity involving identity theft. The second involves an orphan who runs away with her high-school history teacher. The third features a twin in his 30s in search of his brother, likely a paranoid schizophrenic who occasionally sends messagesyet refuses to be found. It's a tribute to Chaon's narrative command that each of these parallel narratives sustains the reader's interest, even though there's little indication through two-thirds of the novel that these stories will ever intersect. And when they do, the results are so breathtaking in their inevitability that the reader practically feels compelled to start the novel anew, just to discover the cues that he's missed along the way. The novel and the short story each aspire to a different kind of perfection. We think no less of Alice Munro because she reigns supreme in the shorter form (though her short stories are longer than most). We continue to hail William Trevor and Lorrie Moore primarily for the exquisiteness of their stories, though both have attempted novels as well (shorter than many). More recently, Donald Ray Pollock's hard-hitting Knockemstiff, a debut collection of interrelated stories, could have easily been marketed as a novel. And Aleksander Hemon's return to stories with Love and Obstacles could pass as a follow-up novel to his brilliant The Lazarus Project. With Chaon, one senses that there's no going back. His stories established his early reputation. He did that. Now he's doing this.
From the Publisher
“The brilliant Dan Chaon has done it again. Both a genre-bending whodunit and a profound meditation on identity, Await Your Reply left me breathless with admiration. The pages turn themselves.”—Justin Cronin, author of The Summer Guest

“I’ve been waiting for somebody to write the essential identity-theft novel, and I’m very glad Dan Chaon’s the one to have done it, because he believes in real story and is faithful to the reader.”—Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections

“This is a stunning and beautiful book. I must have read its final pages half a dozen times, just letting what lay packed and coiled within them settle into me. Out of pure loss, Chaon has created real magnificence. Await Your Reply attains a kind of blurry, bloodstained perfection.”—Peter Straub, author of A Dark Matter

“I haven’t had as much sheer fun reading a novel in years.  Chaon’s characters are always so beautifully drawn that they hold your attention even when they’re just sitting and thinking.  In this breathtaking book, they do that and a whole lot more.”—Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier

“Stunning…. Mr. Chaon succeeds in both creating suspense and making it pay off, but ‘Await Your Reply’ also does something even better. Like the finest of his storytelling heroes, Mr. Chaon manages to bridge the gap between literary and pulp fiction with a clever, insinuating book equally satisfying to fans of either genre. He does travel two roads, even though that guy David Frost said it wasn’t possible."—New York Times

“I was completely hooked—a credit both to Chaon's intricate and suspenseful plotting and to some of the most paranoid material to hit American literature since Don Delillo's White Noise...Await Your Reply is a dark, provocative book; in bringing its three strands together, Chaon has fashioned a braid out of barbed wire.”—New York Times Book Review

“(4 stars) A deliciously disturbing literary thriller. In the end, Await Your Reply is a story that unfolds with chilling precision. You'll be spellbound from start to finish.”—People

“A tender, melancholy meditation on attachment and loss.”— O, The Oprah Magazine

“Far more than an absorbing mystery, in this complex and psychologically astute story Dan Chaon put on a virtuosic display of his literary talent. It's a thrilling example of the best of contemporary literary fiction.” —Bookpage

“Chaon deftly intertwines a trio of story lines, showcasing his characters' individuality by threading subtle connections between and among them with effortless finesse, all the while invoking the complexities of what's real and what's fake with mesmerizing brilliance. This novel’s structure echoes that of his well-received debut–also a book of threes–even as it bests that book’s elegant prose, haunting plot and knockout literary excellence.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“So breathtaking… that the reader practically feels compelled to start the novel anew, just to discover the cues that he’s missed along the way.”—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345476029
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/25/2009
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Await Your Reply

A Novel
By Dan Chaon

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2009 Dan Chaon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345476029

Chapter 1

We are on our way to the hospital, Ryan’s father says.
Listen to me, Son:
You are not going to bleed to death.


Ryan is still aware enough that his father’s words come in through the edges, like sunlight on the borders of a window shade. His eyes are shut tight and his body is shaking and he is trying to hold up his left arm, to keep it elevated. We are on our way to the hospital, his father says, and Ryan’s teeth are chattering, he clenches and unclenches them, and a series of wavering colored lights—greens, indigos—plays along the surface of his closed eyelids.

On the seat beside him, in between him and his father, Ryan’s severed hand is resting on a bed of ice in an ?eight-?quart Styrofoam cooler.

The hand weighs less than a pound. The nails are trimmed and there are calluses on the tips of the fingers from guitar playing. The skin is now bluish in color.

This is about three a.m. on a Thursday morning in May in rural Michigan. Ryan doesn’t have any idea how far away the hospital might be but he repeats with his father we are on the way to the hospital we are on the way to the hospital and he wants to believe so badly that it’s true, that it’s not just one of those things that you tell peopleto keep them calm. But he’s not sure. Gazing out all he can see is the night trees leaning over the road, the car pursuing its pool of headlight, and darkness, no towns, no buildings ahead, darkness, road, moon.

Continues...

Excerpted from Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon Copyright © 2009 by Dan Chaon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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