Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reply not needed

Before Facebook, I never really thought of how I communicated with my friends. I recall calling them, texting them, or emailing them if it's important. Now, deleting your account in Facebook (or in any one of those networking sites for that matter) is analogous to deleting your identify from the world. No Facebook account? You might as well not exist.

Dan Chaon's much-lauded novel, Await Your Reply, focuses on the nature of identity in this modern age of the Internet. Await Your Reply consists of three stories actually. One is on Miles Cheshire, who has spent most of his adult life looking for his twin brother, Hayden. The second is about Lucy Lattimore, who runs away with her high school teacher to carry on their affair. And in the third story, we read about Ryan Schuyler, who decides to leave his university and remake himself. All three stories have one thing in common -- how changing one's identity is so easily done in this world of connectedness.

Await Your Reply is as a "literary thriller," whatever that means. (Is it because Chaon once wrote a novel who was shortlisted for the National Book Award?) Yes, it's a thriller, I would have to agree. But the suspense isn't nail biting. It's the kind of novel that you feel an ominous dread throughout the pages. You know that something terrible is going to happen and you're itching to find out what it is.

Chaon's novel somehow tested my patience. I knew that these three stories were connected, despite the fact that Ryan's, Miles's, and Lucy's subplots feel disjointed. Then Chaon gives these little hints on their common thread. I'm reminded when you start those 1,000-piece puzzles. It takes you forever to just complete a small section. Then little by little, as the puzzle grows and the unassembled pieces diminish, you feel this rush. Everything then becomes a blur, and before you know it, the puzzle it complete. Await Your Reply is just like that. The seemingly slow pace in the first few chapters is so agonizing. But you get a natural high as you read the last few chapters.

I doubt if fans of the literary genre would take to this book. There are no cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. Chaon's technique is to reel you in slowly. The result is an eerily atmospheric novel that is oh so satisfying.

Read this book if:
  1. You love atmospheric thrillers.
  2. You've always wondered what would happen if someone stole your identity.
  3. You've thought about remaking yourself -- wiping the slate clean.


SariJ said...

Ooh, this sounds tempting! Have you read David Mitchel's Ghost Written? His style of writing is much the same. His short stories seem unrelated until you get to the last story. Here you realize all the stories tie together in a way that will leave you a little uneasy. It is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it.

Diane said...

Hi Peter....I liked this book, but I did not consider it literary fiction, even though the author may consider it just that??

Jenny said...

This sounds great! I have in on my TBR so hopefully I'll get to it soon!!

Peter S. said...

Hi, SariJ! I have that book on my shelf! Hmmmm.... I guess I'll read Ghostwritten soon.

@Diane: I myself don't get the literary thriller genre.

@Jenny: It's quite an enjoyable read!

josbookshelf said...

Hi, Peter! Another one of your interesting finds. I like the premise. :)

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Sounds interesting - new title to me.

Peter S. said...

@josbookshelf: It is indeed very interesting!

@Sheila: This is the first Chaon novel I've read and I'm now on the hunt for his other novels.

Tami said...

man - I haven't been to your blog in forever - though I read the RSS feed!

You deserve this:

Peter S. said...

Hi, Tami! Thanks for the award!

martine said...

my tbr pile is too high but this one sounds just excellent, definitely make a note of it to seek out soon.
thanks for sharing

Nath0113anaelDrumm said...
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