CR Evening Book Club - Paranoia Reigns & Nobody Wins in "Await Your Reply"
April 07, 2011
Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply is a twisted, curving piece of fiction that should interest any fan of literary thrillers. The novel is packed with storytelling technique, subtle characterization, vivid settings, and sometimes brutal action. It features three separate storylines that are tied to together as the story winds down.
In one, a recent high school graduate, Lucy Lattimore, runs away with her former teacher in an attempt to start a new life. In another, college student Ryan Schuyler is close to failing out and has been spending his parent's tuition money on everything but tuition. Then in the most affecting storyline, there is Miles Cheshire. Miles is single; a magic store worker who has spent most of his adult life going on cat-and-mouse chases looking for his paranoid schizophrenic twin brother, Hayden, who disappeared a decade earlier.
Chaon makes these sometimes depressing characters interesting and likeable. Readers willing to watch the characters’ lives unravel will enjoy following them around the world as they slowly come to realizations about themselves and the people around them. It’s a dark story, but there are many shades of black.
Chaon has won numerous awards for his short stories, including the O’Henry Award and Pushcart Prize. His first novel, Among the Missing, was nominated for the National Book Award.
His skill is evident throughout the novel. Chaon gives interesting perspectives on twins, and shows readers how the idea of identity has greatly changed as internet communication has grown. All three stories are interesting on their own merit, and the book’s twist is revealed slowly, giving each reader their own "aha" moment.
But the novel’s conceit may be its downfall. It ties all the characters together in an interesting way, but doesn’t give readers any insight into their psyche that might allow us to care about them. Characters talk to each other and stare at each other, but most are incapable of actually connecting emotionally.
The Colbern Road Evening Book Club discussed Await Your Reply at its last meeting. April’s book is Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. Anyone interested in joining the group can call (816) 525-9924 and ask for Leigh to sign-up for emails and obtain a copy of our next great read.
Colbern Road Branch