Review ♦ Await Your Reply

Await Your ReplyThe Lives Of Three Strangers Interconnect In Unforeseen Ways 
– And With Unexpected Consequences.

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. The 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.

Book Title: Await Your Reply Type: Hardcover 324 Pages
Author: Dan Chaon Publication Date: August 2009
Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 978-0-345-47602-9
Genre: Contemporary Fiction Purchase: Amazon

My Thoughts  
Await Your Reply is one of those books in which the plot and how it unwinds structurally is the major reason why I enjoy it. This novel tells three separate stories, with the three stories being built upon in a rotation of chapters. I love this structure, but it makes it really difficult to discuss without inadvertently exposing spoilers. So to get an idea of the actual premise of Await Your Reply you need to read the summary I’ve provided above – it comes directly from the dust-jacket and does an absolutely terrific job of presenting the main ideas without spoiling anything (something I am not so good at doing.) *Have you ever thought that the persons responsible for creating book jacket summaries should get some recognition for their good work? I’ve seen some jacket summaries so full of spoilers I just about lose my mind – but the good ones really don't get the attention they deserve.* 

Now then, if you read the summary you see that this book has three main characters – Miles, a man searching for his quite possibly mad twin brother; Lucy, a young woman who takes off to make a new life for herself with her former professor; and Ryan, a young man who leaves his life behind after discovering he isn’t who he thought he was all his life. These three characters are all so different, yet there is the theme of identity, confusion and searching shared between their stories. For most of the book these stories are quite un-related except by those themes. I’m the type of reader that guesses constantly about how different narratives will become connected later on, and there were so many things running through my mind while reading this book. Many theories of relation popped into my head, but the fantastic thing for me while reading Await Your Reply is that I couldn’t get a concrete idea of how this would end. If you are like me and try to guess and tie things up while reading, this is a book that you will either enjoy terribly or it will make you crazy (in a good “OMG I need to know” kind of way!)

The last thing I want to mention is that I’ve heard many readers saying that they don’t like or don’t think they could read books that have separate narratives told in alternating chapters. If you fall into one of those groups, I’d say if you wanted to give it another shot definitely go with Await Your Reply. The chapters are short, the different narratives are easily identifiable and the writing is excellent in keeping a nice, steady flow going. So even when you start a new chapter featuring a different character there is no jarring sensation. It could be the writing or the theme or maybe how easy the characters were to become involved with, perhaps the mix of all three, but this book is a terrific page-turner.

About The Author
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among The Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Remind Me Of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


J.S. Peyton said...

I'm a sucker for books with different interlocking narratives, and I've had this book on my TBR list for quite some time. I'm trying to hold out for the paperback, though, which is when I'll probably have time to read it anyway. Glad you liked it! I've heard nothing but good things.

Ceri said...

Great review, Joanne. I also love books with multiple narratives. I love seeing different perspectives in the same story and this sounds like a really interesting book.

Zibilee said...

I have another book by Chaon on my shelves, but have been reading a ton of goreat reviews for this book, so I am thinking about grabbing my copy soon. I am glad that the multiple narrative strategy worked well for you and that you enjoyed the book so much! I also agree that some of the writers that do book jackets these days are brilliant! I would guess they would have to be though, to get their offerings to stand out from the rest while browsing! I am sometimes in awe of how perfectly they can render a synopsis in only a few brief sentences. Great review!

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad to see you loved this. I heard about it on NPR, but I'm sometimes skeptical of professional reviewers. Now, I'm anxious to read it.

Anonymous said...

I love books with a presumed dead/reinvent yourself story...I'll have to keep my eye out for this one.

And are you working on your blog? Because your header and nav bar seem to have disappeared.

Kailana said...

This looks interesting. I will have to keep it in mind.

naida said...

Great review, I agree it was a page turner for sure. Thanks for linking to my review, I did the same :)

Lenore said...

I like when authors experiment with structure. Have you read CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell?

lilly said...

I own this book and have been meaning to read it for the longest time. It has finally found its way onto my most immediate TBR books.
I agree with you on the people writing summaries. I just read a book whose half a content was spoiled for me precisely because somebody pretty much revealed it all at the back of the book :(