Await Your Reply

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

Await Your Reply
is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

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

From the Hardcover edition.

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
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
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.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Personal pronouns appear in many of the titles of National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon's work. In Fitting Ends, his first story collection, originally published in 1991 by Northwestern University Press and reissued by Ballantine in 2003, we go on "My Sister's Honeymoon," are told "Sure I Will," and asked "Do You Know What I Mean?" He called his first novel You Remind Me of Me -- more than 50 percent personal pronouns. Now the title of his masterful novel seems to address us with an edge of anxiety, combined with an Internet shyster's come-on: Await Your Reply.

You and I: the questions of character and identity which form the heart of Chaon's fiction have fascinated him from the time of his childhood, when he first started wondering about the alternate life he would have lived he not been adopted. As he said in an interview with The Believer:

A lot of this stuff about fate and circumstance and choice is a personal obsession.... Choices that I didn't know about changed my life in radical ways. I find that enormously profound.... Even simple choices can have huge consequences, and we never get to do things over! Of course, probably a big part of my fascination goes back to being adopted -- growing up with the sense that there's another life out there that I might have had, or multiple lives.

As the father of two adopted children, and as someone who has puzzled over such matters since my own childhood, un-adoptive though it was, I know exactly what Chaon means. I didn't just wonder about why I was me and you were you, I was close to obsessed with such questions. What if my mother hadn't met my father? What if that girl in college had gotten pregnant? Who would my child be if my wife and I had applied for adoption a couple of months later than we did?

Almost all of Chaon's writing at its heart appears to dramatize his concern about such matters. And Await Your Reply addresses them more urgently and darkly than ever before. Its story, moving backward and forward in time, as this writer's stories often do, involves three sets of characters: Miles, who lives an anomic life in Cleveland and is sporadically driven to try to track down his twin brother, Hayden, whom he hasn't seen for ten years; Lucy, a high school girl who runs away with her charismatic and elusive English teacher, George Orson; and Ryan, who finds out he was adopted by his aunt and uncle and sets out to join his biological father, Jay, and eventually joins in Jay's financial-scam activities. The book must be read carefully, and sometimes events can be tricky to follow, but, with his structural precision, Chaon has earned the right to challenge the reader.

Await Your Reply begins with a short description of Jay driving Ryan to the hospital with Ryan's severed hand -- a grisly MacGuffin-style storytelling device -- resting on a bed of ice between them. The next short take shows Lucy, after she has graduated, driving away from Pompey, Ohio, with George Orson in the dead of night. In his typically businesslike but sharp prose, Chaon tells us, "This wasn't actually as bad as it might sound. Lucy was eighteen, almost nineteen...and her parents were dead and she had no real friends to speak of." The third opener shows Miles driving through northwest Canada on his way to Alaska, in pursuit of Hayden.

Three driving scenes. The vast expanses of the Midwest and Canada and the nowhere of Alaska will give way to the desert city of Las Vegas and the half-a-world-away nation of Cote D'Ivoire: Chaon shakes up his six central characters and throws them like so many dice onto the felt of his inventions. The alien quality of the settings, added to the no-man's-land of cyberspace, which Chaon also explores, puts the central narrative questions into sharp relief. The first of those questions, as you may already have guessed, is whether these characters are all part of the same novelistic game. Pretty early on, you know the answer: Yes. Then the second question arises: How?

A thread of this carefully woven fabric is the fraudulence of half of each of the pairs here, and the ways in which they draw their son and girlfriend and twin into frightening, illegal, and sometimes lethal entanglements: forgery, credit card shell games, money laundering, murder. A deeper connection is the philosophical problems that lurk behind and hover above all the story lines. One is the effort to conjure with the contingencies and random events that determine all our lives -- the contingencies that Chaon cites in The Believer interview -- like Lucy's parents' death in an automobile accident. Another is to try to come to some conclusion about what identity really is -- if there is such a thing at all. (The Internet, which lends itself to depersonalization and imposture, has not changed these questions but intensified them.) A third is whether and how our lives can be said to matter. "People like to think that what they do actually matters," the increasingly scary George Orson says, with some disdain, to Lucy, whom he has lured further into his elaborate schemes and now asks to assume a new name. George may be a cynic about whether people and what they do matter, and he's a bad guy, but I can't help feeling some similar worries emanating from the author as well.

I can't reveal much more than that about the plot(s) without spoiling the elegant and sometimes mordantly funny surprises of Await Your Reply. You have to read the book -- especially if you're interested in a postmodern novel that, for all its meta qualities, still works on a visceral level because of the clarity of its prose, the tension of its narrative, and the psychological insight of its author. For example, all three "victims" here -- Ryan, Lucy, and Miles -- know on some level the ominousness of the territory they've chosen to enter. About Lucy, Chaon writes: "There was a lot he hadn't told her. But so what? It was that secretive quality that drew her to him.... Why deny it?" And of Miles, who has received a letter from Hayden after a long period of silence: "He shouldn't have even opened the letter, he thought later.... But no, no. By the time he had gone up the three flights of stairs, he had already torn open the seal."

If the book sounds like a mystery, that's because it is -- a panoply of mysteries, in fact. Does George Foster really have any money? Who is threatening Jay? Has Hayden, like Kilroy, been here -- or there -- or not? But Chaon's deepest mysteries in Await Your Reply are existential. And this novel is, like Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project, one of the few I've read in the last decade that genuinely deserve and renew that largely debased adjective. As Chaon says, in The Believer interview, for him

the most interesting thing about writing is getting to a place where there is more mystery at the end than there was at the beginning. Often novels try to explain the world to you. That's something I'm not interested in. I'm interested in taking things that people have neat packaged ideas about and unwrapping them and making them more complicated.

I would give him more credit than that: complex, not complicated. Here is an author who, because he was adopted, in some ways has made himself up. We all do that, to one degree or another, but adoptees face this reality more directly than the rest of us have to. Chaon has written books and now a new novel in which -- by aesthetic definition -- he has made people up. And in many of these works the characters make themselves up. In Await Your Reply, they remake themselves into different people, and they involve others in their sinister mutability.

You're tempted to conclude that Chaon is implying that identity itself is a fraud, until you remember that there is indeed a solid and integrated consciousness in this book -- a still point in its turning world. I'm talking about the artist himself. As always with very good art, the artifact battles with silent eloquence against the chaos out of which it was formed. --Daniel Menaker

Author of the novel The Treatment and two books of short stories, Daniel Menaker is former Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House and fiction editor of The New Yorker. His reviews and other writings have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Slate.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345476036
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 296,525
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.24 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Chaon
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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 people to 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.

2
A few days after Lucy graduated from high school, she and
George Orson left town in the middle of the night. They were not fugitives–not exactly–but it was true that no one knew that they were leaving, and it was also true that no one would know where they had gone.

They had agreed that a degree of discretion, a degree of secrecy,
was necessary. Just until they got things figured out. George Orson was not only her boyfriend, but also her former high school history teacher, which had complicated things back in Pompey, Ohio.
This wasn’t actually as bad as it might sound. Lucy was eighteen,
almost nineteen–a legal adult–and her parents were dead, and she had no real friends to speak of. She had been living in their parents’
house with her older sister, Patricia, but the two of them had never been close. Also, she had various aunts and uncles and cousins she hardly talked to. As for George Orson, he had no connections at all that she knew of.

And so: why not? They would make a clean break. A new life.

Still, she might have preferred to run away together to somewhere different.

They arrived in Nebraska after a few days of driving, and she was sleeping, so she didn’t notice when they got off the interstate.
When she opened her eyes, they were driving along a length of empty highway, and George Orson’s hand was resting demurely on her thigh: a sweet habit he had, resting his palm on her leg. She could see herself in the side mirror, her hair rippling, her sunglasses reflecting the motionless stretches of lichen- green prairie grass. She sat up.

“Where are we?” she said, and George Orson looked over at her.
His eyes distant and melancholy. It made her think of being a child,
a child in that old small- town family car, her father’s thick, calloused plumber’s hands gripping the wheel and her mother in the passenger seat with a cigarette even though she was a nurse, the window open a crack for the smoke to trail out of, and her sister asleep in the backseat mouth- breathing behind their father, and
Lucy also in the backseat, opening her eyes a crack, the shadows of trees running across her face, and thinking: Where are we?
She sat up straighter, shaking this memory away.

“Almost there,” George Orson murmured, as if he were remembering a sad thing.

And when she opened her eyes again, there was the motel. They had parked in front of it: a tower rising up in silhouette over them.
It had taken Lucy a moment to realize that the place was supposed to be a lighthouse. Or rather–the front of the place, the façade, was in the shape of a lighthouse. It was a large tube- shaped structure made of cement blocks, perhaps sixty feet high, wide at the base and narrowing as it went upward, and painted in red and white barber- pole stripes.

THE LIGHTHOUSE MOTEL, said a large unlit neon sign–fancy nautical lettering, as if made of knotted ropes–and Lucy sat there in the car, in George Orson’s Maserati, gaping.

To the right of this lighthouse structure was an L- shaped courtyard of perhaps fifteen motel units; and to the left of it, at the very crest of the hill, was the old house, the house where George
Orson’s parents once lived. Not exactly a mansion but formidable out here on the open prairie, a big old Victorian two- story home with all the trappings of a haunted house: a turret and wraparound porch, dormers and corbeled chimneys, a gable roof and scalloped shingles. No other houses in sight, barely any other sign of civilization,
barely anything but the enormous Nebraska sky bending over them.

For a moment Lucy had the notion that this was a joke, a corny roadside attraction or amusement park. They had pulled up in the summer twilight, and there was the forlorn lighthouse tower of the motel with the old house silhouetted behind it, ridiculously creepy.
Lucy thought that there may as well have been a full moon and a hoot owl in a bare tree, and George Orson let out a breath.

“So here we are,” George Orson said. He must have known how it would look to her.

“This is it?” Lucy said, and she couldn’t keep the incredulousness out of her voice. “Wait,” she said. “George? This is where we’re going to live?”

“For the time being,” George Orson said. He glanced at her ruefully,
as if she disappointed him a little. “Only for the time being,
honey,” he said, and she noticed that there were some tumbleweeds stuck in the dead hedges on one side of the motel courtyard. Tumbleweeds!
She had never seen such a thing before, except in movies about ghost towns of the Old West, and it was hard not to be a little freaked out.

“How long has it been closed?” she said. “I hope it’s not full of mice or–”

“No, no,” George Orson said. “There’s a cleaning woman com-
ing out fairly regularly, so I’m sure it’s not too bad. It’s not abandoned or anything.”

She could feel his eyes following her as she got out and walked around the front of the car and up toward the red door of the
Lighthouse. Above the door it said: office. And there was another unlit tube of neon, which said: NO VACANCY.

It had once been a fairly popular motel. That’s what George
Orson had told her as they were driving through Indiana or Iowa or one of those states. It wasn’t exactly a resort, he’d said, but a pretty fancy place–“Back when there was a lake,” he’d said, and she hadn’t quite understood what he meant.

She’d said: “It sounds romantic.” This was before she’d seen it.
She’d had an image of one of those seaside sort of places that you read about in novels, where shy British people went and fell in love and had epiphanies.

“No, no,” George Orson said. “Not exactly.” He had been trying to warn her. “I wouldn’t call it romantic. Not at this point,” he said.
He explained that the lake–it was a reservoir, actually–had started to dry up because of the drought, all the greedy farmers, he said,
they just keep watering and watering their government- subsidized crops, and before anyone knew it, the lake was a tenth of what it had once been. “Then all of the tourist stuff began to dry up as well,
naturally,” George Orson said. “It’s hard to do any fishing or waterskiing or swimming on a dry lake bed.”

He had explained it well enough, but it wasn’t until she looked down from the top of the hill that she understood.

He was serious. There wasn’t a lake anymore. There was nothing but a bare valley–a crater that had once held water. A path led down to the “beach,” and there was a wooden dock extending out into an expanse of sand and high yellow prairie grass, various scrubby plants that she imagined would eventually turn into tumbleweeds.
The remains of an old buoy lay on its side in the windblown dirt. She could see what had once been the other side of the lake, the opposite shore rising up about five miles or so away across the empty basin.

Lucy turned back to watch as George Orson opened the trunk of the car and extracted the largest of their suitcases.

“Lucy?” he said, trying to make his voice cheerful and solicitous.
“Shall we?”

She watched as he walked past the tower of the Lighthouse office and up the cement stairs that led to the old house.

3
By the time the first rush of recklessness had begun to burn off,
Miles was already nearing the arctic circle. He had been driving across Canada for days and days by that point, sleeping for a while in the car and then waking to go on again, heading northward along what highways he could find, a cluster of maps origamied on the passenger seat beside him. The names of the places he passed had become more and more fantastical–Destruction Bay, the
Great Slave Lake, Ddhaw Ghro, Tombstone Mountain–and when he came at last upon Tsiigehtchic, he sat in his idling car in front of the town’s welcome sign, staring at the scramble of letters as if his eyesight might be faulty, some form of sleep- deprivation dyslexia.
But no. According to one of the map books he’d bought, “Tsiigeht -
chic” was a Gwich’in word that meant “mouth of the river of iron.”
According to the book, he had now reached the confluence of the
Mackenzie and the Arctic Red rivers.

WELCOME TO TSIIGEHTCHIC!
Located on the site of a traditional Gwich’in fishing camp. In 1868
the Oblate Fathers started a mission here. By 1902 a trading post was located here. R.C.M.P. Constable Edgar “Spike” Millen, stationed at
Tsiigehtchic was killed by the mad trapper Albert Johnson in the shootout of January 30, 1932 in the Rat River area.

The Gwich’in retain close ties to the land today. You can see net fishing year round as well as the traditional method of making dryfish and dry meat. In the winter, trappers are busy in the bush seeking valuable fur animals.

ENJOY YOUR VISIT TO OUR COMMUNITY!

He mouthed the letters, and his chapped lips kept adhering to each other. “ T- s- i- i- g- e- h- t- c- h- i- c,” he said, under his breath, and just then a cold thought began to unfold in the back of his mind.
What am I doing? he thought. Why am I doing this?

The drive had begun to feel more and more like a hallucination by that point. Somewhere on the way, the sun had begun to stop rising and setting; it appeared to move slightly to and fro across the sky, but he couldn’t be sure. Along this part of the Dempster Highway,
a silvery white powder was scattered on the dirt road. Calcium?

The powder seemed to glow–but then again, in this queer sunlight,
so did everything: the grass and the sky and even the dirt had a fluorescent quality, as if lit from within.

He was sitting there by the side of the road, his book open in front of him on the steering wheel, a pile of clothes in the backseat,
and the boxes of papers and notebooks and journals and letters he had collected over the years. He was wearing sunglasses, shivering a little, his patchy facial hair a worn yellow- brown, the color of a coffee stain. The CD player in his car was broken, and the radio played only a murky blend of static and distant garbled voices. There was no cell phone reception, of course. An air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree was hanging from the rearview mirror, spinning in the breath of the defroster.

Up ahead, not too far now, was the town of Inuvik, and the wide delta that led to the Arctic Ocean, and also–he hoped–his twin brother, Hayden.

4
The man said, “Above the wrist? Or below the wrist?”

The man had a sleepy, almost affectless voice, the voice you might hear if you called a hotline for computer technical support.
He looked at Ryan’s father blandly.

“Ryan, I want you to tell your father to be reasonable,” the man said, but Ryan didn’t really say anything because he was crying silently. He and his father were bound to chairs at the kitchen table,
and Ryan’s father was shuddering, and his long dark hair fell in a tent around his face. But when he looked up, he had a troublingly stubborn look in his eyes.

The man sighed. He carefully pushed the sleeve of Ryan’s shirt up above his elbow and placed his finger on the small rounded bone at the edge of Ryan’s wrist. It was called the “ulnar styloid,”
Ryan remembered. Some biology class he had taken, once. He didn’t know why that term came to him so easily.

Above the wrist . . . the man said to Ryan’s father . . . or below the wrist?

Ryan was trying to reach a disconnected state–a Zen state, he thought–though the truth was that the more he tried to lift his mind out of his body, the more aware he was of the corporeal. He could feel himself trembling. He could feel the salt water trickling out of his nose and eyes, drying on his face. He could feel the duct tape that held him to the kitchen chair, the strips across his bare forearms, his chest, his calves and ankles.

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine his spirit lifting toward the ceiling. He would drift out of the kitchen, where he and his father were pinned to the hard- backed chairs, past the cluttered construction of dirty dishes piled on the counter by the sink, the toaster with a bagel still peeping up out of it; he would waft through the archway and into the living room, where a couple of black- T- shirted henchmen were carrying computer parts out of the bedrooms,
dragging matted tails of electrical cording and cables along behind them. His spirit would follow them out the front door, past the white van they were tossing stuff into, and on down his father’s driveway, traveling the rural Michigan highway, the moonlight flickering through the branches of trees as his spirit gained velocity, the luminous road signs emerging out of the darkness as he swept up like an airplane and the patterns of house lights and roads and streams that speckled and crisscrossed the earth growing smaller.
Wooooooooooooooooooo–like a balloon with the air let out of it, a siren, a wailing wind. Like a person screaming.

He squeezed his eyes, tightened his teeth against one another as his left hand was grasped and tilted. He was trying to think of something else.

Music? A landscape, a sunset? A beautiful girl’s face?

“Dad,” he could hear himself saying, through chattering teeth.

“Dad, please be reasonable, please, please be–”

He would not think about the cutting device the man had shown them. It was just a length of wire, a very thin razor wire, with a rubber handle attached to each end of it.

He wouldn’t think about the way his father wouldn’t meet his eyes.

He wouldn’t think about his hand, the wire looped once around his wrist, his hand garroted, the sharp wire tightening. Slicing smoothly through skin and muscle. There would be a hitch, a snag,
when it reached the bone, but it would cut through that, too.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 94 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 94 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT INTRIGUING RIDE!

    This is a unique, unusual and gripping story! It explores schizophrenia, identity theft, closure, and the need to be approved of, loved and accepted. There are three different storylines that seem to have nothing to do with each other. They lead up to some strange events that the mystery is slowly unraveled by the end of the book.

    Miles Chesire has an identical twin whose brother, Hayden, who has been missing for a long time. He receives a strange letter from Hayden. Miles drives from Ohio to northern Canada hoping to find him. Hayden is not well and Miles feels compelled to search for him. Hayden is alleged to be brilliant and different while Miles seems to be a perfectly normal man.

    Lucy Lattimore is dissatisfied with her life in a small town in Ohio. Soon after graduating from high school, she leaves town with her former history teacher.

    One story begins with a young man, Ryan, whose father assures him that he will not bleed to death as he's rushed to the emergency room with his severed arm in an ice cooler. Jay and his son Ryan make a living stealing credit card numbers and using false identities to get cash.

    Each story is captivating in its own right and holds the readers interest right through to the connection and intriguing end. A GREAT RIDE!!


    Others that kept me glued to the pages: I CAN SEE YOU, 61 HOURS, EXPLOSION IN PARIS, THE PASSAGE..

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    Different and intriguing

    I'm a mystery aficionado, and although this is not a "mystery" per se I had read a review in the NY Times Book Review and was intrigued so I picked it up; I'm glad I did.

    There is actually plenty of mystery involved, and the characters are engaging and intriguing enough to carry the reader through the seemingly disparate plot elements to their final convergence. The author's style is (deceptively) direct and straightforward, and the short chapters also work well to keep the story moving along.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Am I Me? Who Are You?

    Dan Chaon traces his interest in identity themes to the fact that he was an adopted child who often wondered about the other person he might have become. Identity stories constitute a long thread winding back through literary history, and Await Your Reply is a dark and compelling extension of that thread.

    Chaon's novel consists of three plot lines that gradually and artfully merge. At the outset, characters in each plot are on the road. In one, a man searches for a lost (and identity shifting) brother, in another a young girl runs off with her high school history teacher, and in a third a conman rushes his son to a hospital, the son's severed hand in an ice pack on the car seat.

    Some of the characters are overt identity thieves, using the Internet to steel credit cards and bank accounts and changing their names with alarming frequency. The bad guys (no good guys in this world) are after these crooks, lending the novel the noir of a good thriller. Other characters face the more usual identity issues. Young Lucy, for instance, worries about her decision to run off with her teacher and wonders at the ironically unsatisfying way her dream of wealth begins to come true even as as her old self fades away in the dust of the past.

    Await Your Reply is a thriller and a mystery, but it is also a serious meditation on human psychology and on the instability of the self. For these characters, the boundary between self and world continually shifts, and the old question "Who Am I" presents itself again with each new day. By blending the themes of criminal identity theft, so much in the news these days, with themes of personal growth and self-knowledge, Chaon's book is a disturbing reflection of our time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Angel C. "Await Your Reply Review"

    Await your reply is a great book. You begin reading expecting to read about a family or someone's life but then you find your self reading three different stories. They all have one thing in common and that is they are all depressed. Every character has some sense of false hope. These stories also take place in the Midwest. I am surprised they did not get hit with a tornado or a snow storm like we are accustomed to get from our spontaneous weather. They are running from what they know as home to try and remake the person they think they are. Every character is well described and every event is described in detail. Dan Choan sets up the story perfectly and keeps you in suspense. While you are trying to figure out what is going to happen you are forced to read about the other two stories. And when you are interested in those the same thing happens. You can not wait to get to the next page and also the next chapter.
    Though the chapters are rather short they are very intriguing. The beginning starts with a person named Ryan and his severed hand sitting on a Styrofoam cooler. He is on his way to the hospital or so he is told and he hopes its not just something they are telling him to feel better. Later in his story he starts doing bad in college when an unannounced person crosses his life. A man by the name of jay informs him that he is adopted and Jay is his real father. Ryan then decides to join this new father of his in his criminal activities leaving school and his old life behind. Later Ryan reads that his former parents believe he has committed suicide and perform a funeral in his honor. He feels sad but also liberated by this and changes his identity by stealing peoples identities just like his newly adopted father.
    The second story is a man by the name of miles is in search of his twin brother Hayden who has been missing for ten years. Hayden is schizophrenic and very paranoid. Miles also believes that Hayden murdered his mother and stepfather. Hayden doesn't admit that he has a sickness and even reticules his brother for believing their mother about such a thing. They thought Hayden went crazy because of their fathers death. He can not believe they would think such a thing.
    In the third story there is a girl by the name of Lucy. She is a small town girl from Ohio and decides to run away with her history teacher. Her teacher George Orson is in search of a new life and decides to run away with Lucy to his parents house in Nebraska. Lucy lost her parents to a car crash and her sister is now her legal guardian. They are not very close emotionally separating since childhood. Lucy did not want to be part of the abuse her sister had to go through from the kids at school. When Lucy leaves to be with her teacher her sister does not even notice showcasing how distant they are from each other.
    This story is a for sure buy. The author gives you three opening attention grabbers instead of the usual one. Each story just consumes your attention with every sentence as it engages each story. This book is hard to put down once you get started and every story is a good one. Some people can relate to these stories. My girlfriend has a twin and my girlfriend is on the right track but her sister has a baby and dropped out of school. They sometimes get confused by people who do not know them that well. Other people can relate to the story about Lucy. There have been people on the news who have relations with their teachers. This is not c

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

    In his new novel Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon pulls the reader into three completely different worlds. First, the reader encounters Ryan Schuyler, a young man who is a student at Northwestern University, who upon finding out a long hidden secret about himself leaves the campus one day, believing that his whole life was a lie. In the second story, Chaon introduces us to Lucy Lattimore, a young girl who has just graduated from high school. Lucy has always found the prospect of leaving her small town of Pompey, Ohio exciting because she has no friends, and she is different from everyone else because she actually wants to get away from Ohio and go somewhere else that is bigger and better so that she can succeed instead of just living a boring life in Pompey, Ohio. This becomes possible because during her senior year Lucy falls in love with her A.P. History teacher George Orson. So right after she graduates high school, Lucy embarks on a journey with George Orson.
    Finally, in the third story we are introduced to Miles Cheshire, a middle-aged man from Cleveland, Ohio who for his whole life has been chasing the ghost of his schizophrenic twin brother Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. As Chaon develops these stories he draws the readers inside the minds of the characters, and makes you feel for them and their individual predicaments. It feels like you are actually there with the characters, instead of just a spectator to the events that unfold throughout the story. All of a sudden, it is no longer Ryan taking on a new identity, Lucy becoming uneasy with George Orson, or Miles chasing his brother; it is you taking on the new identity, becoming uneasy with the actions of your lover, and you chasing a brother you have not seen in ten years.
    Chaon's novel Await Your Reply leaves the reader breathless, and on the edge of their seat after every chapter. The cliff hangers at the end of each of the chapters leaves the reader wanting more from that character so that you cannot wait until you encounter them again a few chapters later. Chaon tells three compelling stories of three strangers whose lives will intertwine in some way or the other without them realizing it. He takes you on a journey and shows you how one person's actions and decisions can effect more than those around you in your tight little circle of friends and family. He shows how your decisions can be far reaching and can affect people that you have never before met or even heard of, and how in making those decisions, you can become intertwined with complete strangers who somehow come into contact with you because of a decision that someone else has made.
    I enjoyed reading Await Your Reply because it has an air of mystery about it. Throughout the entire novel, I was wondering when and how all the three character' lives would finally intertwine. I also liked that fact that Chaon introduces all these other characters into the novel which adds so much to the novel as a whole; for instance, Lydia Barrie, a woman who is searching for sister Rachel, who she believes has run off with Hayden Cheshire. I really liked this character because I could relate to her. Everyone has lost someone be it in death, moving away, or growing apart with whom he or she wishes the situation could be remedied. I also enjoyed all the action events in Await Your Reply. I really enjoyed the edge of your seat ending to each chapter, which keeps you waiting to find out what would happen t

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2009

    another good read

    Love Dan Chaons writing. Another mystery and character study of people's lives, personalities, relationships. Moves back and forth between the characters and builds intrigue as they slowly move toward each other. As they change their identities, they become different and lose touch with those they leave behind. Complex, sad, and perplexing. Not your usual mystery. Leaves you thinking about everyone for some time after you finish it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Can you ever truly know someone?

    "Await Your Reply" by Dan Chaon . what can I say? It is an unusual novel. It is both a mystery and a psychological study of identity. The novel is divided into three stories with the chapters cycling between them. A common thread - identity and who you are - binds the stories together and is clearly evident. In one story, Miles Chesire, wanting to get on with his life, has received a letter from his twin brother, Hayden, pulling him back into a global game of hide and seek. Another story centers around, Ryan, a college drop out, whose hand has been severed under mysterious circumstances. And in the final story, we have Lucy, a recent high school graduate who leaves town with her high school teacher. Each of these individual is searching for something but what is that something. Is it love, a sense of belonging, closure, etc...? In their search, these individuals will need to come to terms with who and what they are.
    ------
    While reading, I had a gnawing sense of familiarity and definitely saw strong parallels between two of the stories. Is there a connection between all the stories? This question will keep you reading (and thinking). I found Mr. Chaon to be quite adept at describing the little details - from a neglected motel in an abandoned US town to a hotel in Africa and a quaint little town in Ecuador - you feel as though you are there and witnessing everything. The stories were well paced and the characters well developed. Some may find the interweaving of chapters a bit disconcerting; however, the book is a page turner (I read it in one sitting). Some may not even like the characters as they are dark and strange - I only found one to be likable. Mr. Chaon's characters could be someone you know - they are ordinary people just trying to find themselves; however, some of the means taken to do so are questionable and may leave you wondering how well/if you know someone. I have always felt that you can never really know someone - you can only know what they allow you to see - truth or not.
    ------
    I highly recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Never a dull moment

    "Await Your Reply" starts out with three seemingly completely unrelated stories. College drop-out Ryan is on the way to the hospital with his Dad, after a horrible and maiming accident. Teenager Lucy leaves town with her former high school teacher, George Orson. And Miles Chesire has received yet another mysterious letter from his missing (and possibly psychotic) identical twin brother, Hayden. As all three stories emerge, it becomes clear that there is more to these characters than meets the eye.

    This book starts out with a bang, and doesn't let up. The intensity of the plot--and the big question: are the stories related?--will keep you reading well into the night. Part mystery and part psychological drama, the book does a good job of showing what people are capable of under desperate circumstances. I thought the writing was very good; and liked the way the story develops. The relationships between the characters (in particular twins Hayden and Miles) are interesting to read about as well

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2012

    What???

    I must say that I found this book truly disappointing. I always read a book to the end, but found it especially hard to do with this one. To me, the characters are undeveloped and unbelievable. The book was depressing!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    A Book I Thought About For Days Afterwards

    I chose to read this book because I noticed that it had appeared on a number of lists of the best books of 2009. I have been disappointed in the past by books that reviewers have raved about - finding them dull, too esoteric, or simply too much effort. This was not the case with "Await Your Reply". From the first page, I was hooked. Dan Chaon weaves three gripping story lines together in what I found to be an original way. The plot is fast moving, the characters are interesting, and the writing is well done. Although the common theme is identity theft and most of the main characters are the perpetrators of this crime, I found myself rather sympathetic towards them. The characters are not simply props to move the plot along, but rather their histories are an integral part of the story. Chaon does a wonderful job with character development. I recommended this book to my husband (he liked it, too) and plan to recommend it to others, too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    excellent read

    Three separate stories make up this incredible novel. Miles Cheshire has been looking for his twin brother, Hayden for about ten years. Lucy has left home with her former high school teacher, looking for a new life. Ryan walks away from his life after learning a startling truth, and is presumed dead by his family.

    Chaon expertly weaves these stories together until they are connected. All the characters seem to be lost and are looking to remake themselves. Miles has spent so much time looking for his brother, he has forgotten to live his own life. Lucy doesn't quite end up with the adventure she was looking for. Ryan seems to be in over his head with his new life.

    my review: I thought this novel was fantastic; suspenseful and well-written. I was hooked from the beginning. We learn bits and pieces of each character, yet we don't learn much at all. I liked the theme of stolen identities, both literally and figuratively. Ryan and his biological dad that he never knew, steal identities for credit card theft and moving money around. Miles' brother, creates several different identities, making it difficult for Miles to locate him.

    I found this especially interesting as the idea of just changing your identity and starting anew has an appeal for me on some very stressful days, or when the bills pile up!

    It's hard to say too much with out giving anything away, so let me just say I really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it.

    my rating 5/5

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2009

    Terrific Read

    I'm not usually a fan of seperate stories taking place in one novel, but this was excellent. The way the author tied things together as the story progressed was really well done. I can't wait to read his other works.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Stays With You

    I was really looking forward to getting my hands on Await Your Reply. Billed as "gripping," with "the momentum of a thriller," what I was hoping for wasn't quite what I got. But what I got, I enjoyed tremendously.

    Await Your Reply follows three characters as they search for missing parts of their lives. Miles Cheshire is trying desperately to track down his long-lost, and possibly sociopathic, twin brother Hayden. Ryan Schuyler, who has just learned he has been raised by his aunt and uncle, is trying to find out just who he is and has become involved in indentity theft schemes with his birth father. And Lucy Lattimore, who has just graduated high school and run away with one of her teachers, is searching for a life outside of the small town she grew up in.

    We know that all three stories must be connected in some way, but we have no idea of how or why until the final few pages. It's a testament to Chaon's skill that he can keep the secrets hidden until the end of the book, mixing truth with lies with perfect balance and making each character's journey exciting and unpredictable.

    Await Your Reply certainly does not have "the momentum of a thriller," but for the most part that's a good thing. Yes, there were moments when passages did drag a bit - perhaps a bit more aggressive editing would have been in order - but the subject matter and characters were best enjoyed slowly, taking the time to enjoy Chaon's style. Overall I found the book to be an original, compelling and very timely piece of work that stayed with me for days after I finished it.

    Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    Await your Reply is original and a psychological thriller.

    If you like to solve mysteries of the mind, this book is for you. I enjoyed it and did get into it, but there are 3 different plots going at once that eventually all tie together. It's done masterfully and if you pay attention you can figure it out before the author does it for you. I found it kind of disturbing and depressing though overall based on the tonality and the plot. I wouldn't re-read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Unusual

    excellent and unusual, this book is a challenge and worth it. Seemingly a simple story turns into an elegant psychological mystery. I really enjoyed the writing as well.
    dalelvr

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Hello

    Come to Unknowncl. I plan to make it active. Leader is Frozenstr.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Requests here

    In clude your clan name. And leader.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    Great Story!

    Loved it. Page turner!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    IF YOU KNOW......

    If hou know bronzetooth post here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted May 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Identity and self are of importance here, yet it's an identity other than their own that drives these characters. The inability to accept who they are is the main focus of this tragic tale.

    In a collection of seemingly, unrelated stories, a group of characters come together in unexpected ways. Miles goes on a quest to find his missing brother, Hayden. Hayden is afflicted with mental illness and although Miles is well aware that anything could have happened to him, he somehow senses that Miles has gotten himself into trouble. Ryan is a young man going nowhere. He receives a call from his birth father Jay, who he originally thought to be his uncle, and decides to join him in his life of crime. Lucy, a recent high school grad, decides to take off with George, her high school history teacher to live in an abandoned mansion in Nebraska.

    Interwoven between these stories is an email scam that is all too familiar in this day and age. The old phishing scam where someone emails you to tell you that you've been left millions of dollars and that all they need is your personal information. This is where the title of the book comes into play.

    As the story plays out, and the relationships between these characters make more sense, you can't help but feel sorry for these people. None of them are particularly likable and none of them are strong enough to pull themselves out of the hole they've dug for themselves. They are a miserable group of people, depressed in different ways, yet depressed just the same. Their desire for a better life tugs at the heartstrings because they are so real. So desperate and so real.

    This is one of those quiet books that forces you to consider the human soul and its desperation and utter loneliness. It's bleak. True. Yet hope exists, it's just a tad out of reach for these characters and their struggle to find it is what keeps you reading. Dan Chaon knows people and is not afraid to expose all of their insecurities. This is what I appreciated most about this novel. His ability to expose all of their vulnerabilities in a realistic way. Overall, a very satisfying read.

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