Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Book description:
"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.

This novel is told as three interwoven stories whose connections only become clear toward the very end of the book. It is a tribute to Chaon's abilities as a writer that these stories do mesh so unexpectedly well and that the reader is carried along far enough to see the connections. This is a sparse and dismal tale of self-definition and identity that sparks questions about who any of us really are inside our own minds and to the people around us.

Miles is haunted by the twin who disappeared, but never completely, whose forceful and potentially false memories of their shared childhood continue to keep Miles separated from reality and questioning his own existence. Ryan is haunted by his memories of his own failures and what he sees as his betrayal by his parents; his active attempt to remove himself from the world has far-reaching consequences. Orphaned Lucy is haunted by the life she fears she'll never have, the choices she won't have the opportunity to make; though her decision to runaway is brought on by a desire to remake herself, she finds it more difficult than expected to abandon her own knowledge of who she truly is.

This masterful work was a surprisingly quick read and yet raised questions that are still floating unanswered in my mind. Highly recommended- this book will stay with you.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

I enjoyed this story very much myself but wasn't sure quite how to review it. Good job.