switterbug (Betsey)'s Reviews > Await Your Reply

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
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Feb 26, 11

Read in July, 2009

E-e-r-i-e. It is irresponsible to tell you much more than that, because this book hinges on the reader's simultaneous suspicion and disarmament at every twist and turn. Much of the book is necessarily circumspect, which made me feel distant and dislocated during the first 2/3 of the story. And although a lot of it takes place in wide open, (and often) desolate places, I felt a contraction of space and time, and a reader's claustrophobia. The narrative edges collapsed into a flat darkness, and I frequently wondered where I am, where this is going. But an ominous atmosphere of mendacity and a disjointed, shadowy sense of the sinister pervaded.

Alternating chapters distinguish the storylines. In the opening pages, we encounter a disturbing and unusual scene of vague, escaped violence and torment, as Ryan and his father are headed to the hospital. In the next chapter, we are introduced to recent high-school graduate Lucy and her lover, George, who was her twelfth-grade history teacher. They are headed toward a new life, far away from where they were teacher and student. Subsequently, we join Miles, a lonely man obsessed with the disappearance of his twin brother. These disparate narratives continue to alternately build with greater complexity and with mounting tension. All will be revealed by the closing pages, although the journey there is often ambiguous. I often felt restive and off-kilter while turning the pages, anxious for the story to become more transparent. I suspect that this was the author's intent, as these holes in our comprehension actually add weight and dimension to the story by giving it greater immediacy and urgency. Our participation as a reader is paramount to the theme of the story. I don't want to explain too much more, because I do not want to dilute the reader's tension and uncertainty. What I can say is that the question of identity, in its many guises, is the thing we are chasing, while it chases us.

Dan Chaon delivers this dark and dire tale with a cagey cachet. I am confident it will inspire lively discussion and debate between readers.
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