Thursday, April 21, 2011

Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon

Well, I have a new literary crush. That being said, I did this book a great injustice by reading it in little bits and pieces, over the course of almost two weeks. It deserves some undivided attention. It is comprised of three stories, which are ultimately intertwined, beautifully mirroring one another. As though they reflect one another on a slightly wavering surface, so that just as you glimpse the similarities, they are gone.

Each narrative is told from the point of view of a runaway. Ryan is fleeing his parents after learning that he is not who he thought he was. Lucy escapes her small town in the wake of her parents' death, in the front seat of her history teacher's Maserati. Miles has been uprooting his life for decades, in search of his elusive identical twin. The action switches between the present and the past; many pasts, as it turns out. The structure is complex, but it remains clear what is happening to whom, and how it fits into the overall timeline. Which is pretty impressive.

Is it possible to walk away from your life, and make it over entirely? This novel continually made me ask myself, "Are people really like this? Is this going on all over America?" It is a testament to the fine writing that I kept answering myself in the affirmative. What a feat! In less skillful hands it would have seem contrived and ridiculous. As it was, I was kept guessing until the end, unsure of how the trio of tales would resolve themselves, anxious to get learn the truth, but wanting to make the book last.

The author describes his novel as Hitchcockian. Hitchcocklike? Rest assured, he put it more gracefully. It has many characteristics of a thriller, and I had to read one section through slitted eyes, because it was so suspenseful and clinically creepy. I am not a fan of the mystery/crime genre (much to my own disappointment); this book rides the line between genre fiction and just generally really well-written fiction, which to me is a perfect combination. In short, I loved it, and can't wait to read his other work.

Here's a great interview with the author. He's pretty nerdy/dreamy, which is the best kind of dreamy, in my book.

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