Rummanah Aasi
  Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon is not a book I would have probably chosen on my own, but I have seen it on several library's summer reading suggestions. I did pick the book up as it selected by a member of the book club I recently joined.

Description (from the publisher): 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

Review: When I started Await Your Reply, I wasn't sure if I would like it. The disjointed narrative structure took a while to get use to, especially when I found myself rereading certain sections over and over again with a sinking feeling that I must have missed something because the transition to other characters were whiplash fast. It's not until reflecting on the story and having an insightful book discussion did I seem to actually digest the story.
  Await Your Reply may be set up like your ordinary suspense/thriller read, but it was unexpectedly philosophical which was a nice surprise and added a complex layer to the story. The book's central theme of the mutability of identity, which Dan Chaon explores through three seemingly (at first) unrelated narratives is absorbing. To narrow this broad theme a bit further is analyzing the extent of how identity is influenced, reinforced, or even granted to a person by others - especially those others whom we consider authority figures. Can a soul have more than one identity? Don't we all have multiple personalities if we put in different social situations? If so, can the personalities be completely separate?
  In a way the three stories in Await Your Reply are each examining the dangers of relying to heavily on others for one's sense of self. If you define yourself as a function of someone else, what happens when that someone else is not who you think they are? What if they disappear from your life and you have to go back to square one? Ryan, whom we meet in a gruesome introduction, has just met a man claiming to be his real father and so estranges himself from his newly-discovered-to-be-adoptive parents. Lucy is unable to cope with the death of her parents, abandons her sister, and runs away with a high school teacher in hopes of starting a new life full of possibilities  And Miles is lost and struggling to find his metaphorical phantom limb, his missing twin brother, who he's realizing has become insane. The characters, some invoking sympathies while others make us pensive, appalled, are constantly awaiting the reply of the other - the real father, the older lover, the missing twin brother to help make them whole  because they cannot close the loop on their own selves until that feedback is received.
  I enjoyed the deeper aspect of the book, while I wasn't too thrilled with the suspense part of the book. The first have of the book is extremely slow and that's where the philosophical portion takes root. The second half is more plot heavy and moves quickly. Unfortunately, the author doesn't spend much time showing the intimacy of the different relationships posed in the book, which I think could have added more depth to the story. Out of the three story threads presented, the Miles/Hayden tale was the most enjoyable to me, but I couldn't really figure out the timeline of those events as it jumped around quite a lot. The Lucy/George tale had a hint of Lolita in the story, but didn't the relationship didn't really do much as you couldn't really see the chemistry between these two supposed romantic couples. I felt that the Ryan/Jay story suffered a bit from not really have a lot for the characters to do, but kept suspense in the novel as their stories seemed to always end on cliffhangers until we returned to these characters.
  If you're looking for a meaty suspense read, I would give Await Your Reply a try. The plot twist and how these three different story lines converge is interesting though it might take patience to get there. Overall, I enjoyed it much more than I originally thought.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, suggestions of sex, and strong violence. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, Blame by Michelle Huneven, American Rust by Philipp Meyer 
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    It's always nice when you end up enjoying a book more than you thought you would when you first picked it up. It's a happy surprise:) Some aspects of this book sound a bit confusing, especially the transitions from one character to another, and I'm bummed some of the character relationship intricacies aren't explored quite as much as they could have been. Not sure this is the story for me, but I loved your review Rummanah!


  2. I like the sound of the philosophy and the plot twists. Saddened by the suspense failing, but oh the philosophy! That makes me want to read it to see how they handle it. Thanks


  3. Candace Says:

    Hmmm... I'm not sure this is for me. It sounds a bit too deep for me. I don't have much patience these days and put books down far too quickly. It does have such an description though...


  4. Leslie Slape Says:

    I'm reading the book for a class. Our latest assignment was to figure out the timeline based on clues in the book. It took some doing! There is only one date mentioned, 2008, and some ages, and some stuff like "five years ago." This is not the kind of book to skim or just dip into.


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