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.
About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
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.
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.
She watched as he walked past the tower of the Lighthouse office and up the cement stairs that led to the old house.
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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..
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.
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.
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
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
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.
"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.
"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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
The novel is told in alternating chapters from three unconnected points of view: Ryan, a college dropout; Lucy, an orphaned 18yo from Ohio; and Miles, who has spent the majority of his adult life searching for his schizophrenic, brilliant, obsessed twin brother Hayden. Though it ranges as far afield as Africa and northern Canada, the book and its characters are decidedly midwestern US, where the characters were raised or are living: Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois. Early on, I flipped back to Chaon¿s bio. His description of central Ohio, where I grew up, was so uncannily accurate I knew he had to have a connection there. Sure enough, he¿s a professor at Oberlin College.Each of the characters is struggling with identity, in both real-life and theoretical senses. Ryan, Miles and Lucy struggle to figure out who they are, especially in relation to others around them.It pulled me in immediately, and kept me engaged all the way through. It¿s a thriller about identity theft in the information age. But it¿s also excellently written, deeply characterized, well-plotted literary novel.
The Short of It: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.The Rest of It: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.
Await Your Reply is a fast paced novel of three intersecting stories. The first story we are introduced to is that of college dropout Ryan, whose world has been turned upside down after learning a longtime family secret. Ryan is led into a life of forgery and identity theft by his father Jay, the result of which is devastating to Ryan.Lucy is an unpopular, unloved high school graduate from Pompey Ohio. Lucy escapes her humdrum life by sneaking away with one of her high school teachers, George Orson. They end up in an abandoned motel in Nebraska. Lucy¿s boredom soon turns to disillusionment and finally distrust has George becomes more of a stranger to her. It doesn¿t take Lucy long to realize that the man whom she impulsively entrusted her life to is not who she thought he was at all.And finally there is Miles Cheshire. In his early 30¿s Miles is lonely and disconnected from life. He obsessively chases his missing twin brother Hayden across the country. Hayden suffers from schizophrenia and has dropped out of society, leaving a trail of taunting clues and broken lives for Miles to trace. The real genius of the story is the eventual realization that the main character is not Ryan, Lucy or Miles, but a mysterious fourth character, who binds all of these stories together. Though Ryan, Lucy and Miles never meet, they are all drawn in and profoundly affected by this character. Await Your Reply is an engrossing, fascinating read. Clever readers will likely figure out by the middle of the book how these stories are all connected. But that realization in no way detracts from this fascinating read.
I'm not sure why everyone loves this book so much. There were multiple stories going on at once, and the "twist" was something that I saw coming early on. I didn't enjoy reading it, but it was so highly recommended by a few of my reliable sources that I stuck it out to the end only to be disappointed.
Wow. This was a well-thought out, tightly written story. The characters of Miles, Lucy and Ryan are interesting, even though they are at differing points in their lives. All three storylines are smoothly presented and when eventual links appeared, I felt rewarded for my diligent reading.
The story starts with three seemingly unconnected narratives. First, that of Ryan, who in the opening scene is being rushed to the hospital with his detached hand. Then also Lucy, recent high school grad running away with her history teacher. Finally, there's Miles, searching for his missing twin brother. What propels you through the book is wanting to find out how these three connect up. I had some guesses, some right, but didn't get quite how all they all fitted till the end--the author says it was the same for him, that he wrote it with those first scenes and characters in mind, then wrote them trying to figure out how they connect--maybe that helped in keeping the sense of mystery, although in the end it does fit so nicely with such a firm click there's a sense of inevitability. Besides the mystery, the theme of identity keeps recurring in this novel in interesting ways as both the key to the mystery but in a way that also has you turning in your mind what makes up your own identity. Although Lucy and Ryan have less than nice aspects to their characters, I did come to care for them (and Miles) and that was another source of suspense as you watch them get deeper into what you worry cannot end well. The prose is clean and the book sucked me in. One of those novels you better pick up when you can clear some hours to spend--because you won't want to put it down.
From many reviews and comments from readers, I should have admired this book. I found it a hot house novel, one contrived, dispite the author's remarks in the paperback edition, and clever without being very interesting. So we create new identities or lose ourselves in our social identities. Joan Didion said it all years ago and with humanity and understanding--and clearly: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live"--here, Chaon makes stories for others with a little spiritual nonesense thrown in for seasoning. Very disappointing.
This is a well-written thriller about identity and cyber-crime whose structure reminded me of a kaleidoscope where all the pieces slowly click into focus. Actually, there are some things that are never really clear even at the end (such as ¿was that person¿s death really accidental?¿)--but that just contributes to the creepiness of the book.The story is told from the point of view of three different characters who are unhappy with their lives and open to the idea of changing identities but naive about the kind of people this brings them into contact with. It¿s hard to say much about the plot without giving things away but I thought the author did a good job of slowly revealing clues and keeping the story moving along. The real value of the book to me though was that, in addition to telling a good story, the author raises a number of questions about identity in general. Some of the things this book made me think about were (1) how easy it is to be someone else on the internet, (2) the extensive and murky world of cyber criminals and (3) the issue of even wanting to change your identity in the first place. It made me realize I never even think about this. (And the last time I even remotely did was before going to college when I briefly considered switching to using my middle name instead of my first.)In my paperback version of the book, there¿s an interview with the author. One of his comments struck me: ¿I¿ve been reading a lot about the problem of memory, and I¿m fascinated by the work of researchers like Elizabeth Loftus, which suggests that memory and our sense of our own life stories are more fictional than we¿d like to believe.¿Favorite passage: ¿I never wanted to get to a point in my life where I knew what was going to happen next. . . . I can¿t understand how people can settle for having just one life. I remember we were in English class and we were talking about that poem by--that one guy. David Frost. `Two roads diverged in a yellow wood--¿ You know this poem, right? `Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth--¿ I loved that poem. But I remember thinking to myself: Why? How come you can¿t travel both? That seemed really unfair to me.¿ (I sometimes think about the path not taken but never about taking both!)Bottom line: Entertaining story with a lot of food for thought. Recommended--4 stars.
This book was a roller coaster ride from start to finish and I could not put it down. Three seeming separate stories,each compelling in its own right begin to weave together in a most unexpected way. One of the most beautifully choreographed books I have ever read. Definitely highy recommended!
A Book Club selection......I could not put this book down. I found the plot, characters and structure to work really well together. The primary theme of this book was identity.....how it is gained, how it is lost, how it can change. Another thread was the lack of authenticity in an age of high tech. Really gripping, psychological thriller!
(Adding this to my library now though I read it some time ago--this title just now showed up as a recommendation and I want to confirm that yes, it's a good recommendation. ;-)
A book of three stories, completely different, and you wonder if all of them will tie in at the end. The stories all start with the present and work backwards which can be very confusing. Just about the time you're all engrossed in one, it changes to one of the other stories. Never saw the ending at all untill it was right on me. Good stories, good book and as frustrating as it was you still have to find out what is going to happen. A different book which I like.