Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Dark doesn’t even begin to describe this one. A schizophrenic twin tied to the bedframe in the attic, a severed hand, a orphaned high school girl who leaves town with her Maserati-driving history teacher, and a college student who falls in with a ring of identity thieves, allowing them to fake his death. And that’s just the set-up: the way these characters end up being related propels the story forward at a breakneck pace. I do most of my reading right before I go to sleep, and there were a couple of nights I hesitated – do I want to risk a nightmare? – but curiosity trumped fear every time.
The theme is identity: stolen, assumed, faked, questioned. But Chaon’s characters are dealing with identity on an interior level as well as a criminal one. Who am I, really, and if I were wiped off the face of the earth, would anyone miss me, and if so, for how long?
The story lines start out connected, and end up even more so. To say any more about the plot would give away too much. Besides, it’s so intricately plotted that it would be difficult to boil down to a few sentences. It’s a haunting, satisfying read.
Click here to read an interview with Chaon, where he discusses, among other things, the “Easter eggs” he scattered through the book, tributes to some of his favorite authors (Lovecraft, Poe, Shirley Jackson).
author photo: Philip Chaon