Saturday, October 23, 2010

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Posted by Simcha 4:12 PM, under | 2 comments

Lately, my job has provided me with a lot of opportunities for listening to audio books, while doing tasks that don't require much thought. I figured this would be a great chance for me to listen to some of those non-genre books that I have been wanting to read but haven't managed to find time for. One such book is Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, a book that I have heard wonderful things about and have meaning to read for over a year now.

Publisher's Synopsis: 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.

From the very start of the book, where Ryan is being rushed to the emergency room by his father, with his severed hand lying in a cooler beside them, I was completely hooked. In bits and pieces we get to know Ryan, Lucy and Miles and how they each ended up in their current situations. The main pull of the story, though, is the mystery of how these seemingly unrelated stories could possibly be connected and I just kept "reading" in eager anticipation of making this discovery.

I had a difficult time connecting to, or even sympathizing with, any of the book characters because their choices and behaviors were so foreign to me. While I can understand the concept of wanting to reinvent oneself, the way that Lucy and Ryan callously abandon their families without any explanation really bothered me as well as the way that they passively let events pull them along, afterwards. I was a bit more sympathetic towards Miles, though I was frustrated by the way he kept putting his own life on hold to search for a brother who didn't want to be found, especially since it's unclear what he expects to happen if he does find him. The one character I did come to feel for is Miles's missing brother Hayden. We mostly get to know him through Miles's recollections of their childhood, and it is suggested that he may have taken part in heinous acts of crime, but he was the one I found myself rooting for the most. I really wanted him to be found and to get the help that he needed.

The end, when it came, was both satisfying and disappointing. As the story winds up the pieces start falling into place and the connection between all of the stories is cleverly revealed. But the individual stories are left unresolved, which I was disappointed with. When the book did end I was somewhat stunned at the abruptness of it and my mind scrambled to rearrange the events of the story in light of the new revelations. At that point I would have really liked to have had a physical copy of the book on me so that I could flip back and read certain parts of the book to reevaluate particular events.

Kirby Heyborne does a fantastic job narrating Await Your Reply and I very much enjoyed listening to him read this book. I had no trouble identifying each individual character, even though there were quite a few of them. As I mentioned, there were some instances when I would have liked to have a physical copy of the book and I think I might have missed out on some clues by listening to the book rather then reading it. This didn't really bother me but others might want to take this into consideration before deciding if they prefer to listen to or read the book.

From start to finish, I was completely absorbed by Await Your Reply and I really had to force myself to put it down in order to get other things done. The story just pulls you along and you want to keep reading in order to find out how it all ends. And despite my dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the book, I would still highly recommend it for anyone looking for a thrilling, unpredictable read.


So it was good even though you couldn't connect and the ending wasn't what you wanted..huh, then it must be good I guess

Blodeuedd: It was a different kind of book than what I usually read but I did really enjoy it. In this case the story was intriguing enough that my feelings towards the characters weren't that important.

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