Rating: 5 of 5 stars
In his Acknowledgments at the end of Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon recognizes many authors who have influenced his work. He mentions that these writers are "better writers who inspired me." In my opinion, Chaon deserves a place right in the middle of those authors, and they would certainly be proud to include him in their number. While I was reading Await Your Reply, I had this nagging feeling that parts of it reminded me of something, but I couldn't put my finger on what. Then I read the Acknowledgments and that blub lit up in my head... THAT'S IT!!! This part reminds me of this author; that part reminds me of that author. And THIS part reminds me of one of my all time favorite authors. Not a copy, mind you, because Chaon is unique. But I could see that influence, and it made this book special to me.
From the beginning of Await Your Reply there was, for me, a sense of dread that kept building and building until the end of the book when, thanks to a very satisfying finish, it all becomes clear. Unline Chaon's You Remind Me Of Me, I didn't find these characters so sympathetic. Fascinating, yes, and that's what kept me reading. First I wanted to know what connected these seemingly unrelated individuals; then I wanted to know what on earth happened to them all. By the time I got into the second half of the book, I could not put it down.
As in You Remind Me Of Me, Chaon's characters are, at least on the surface upon first meeting them, ordinary people with problems just like everyone else. But as the pages go by, it becomes clear that these people may be the sort who live right next door to you, but they are not ordinary. That's what I like most about Chaon's writing. He knows that while the overall picture may give the appearance of the mundane, everyone's-got-a-cross-to-bear, for each person the circumstances of life are not commonplace at all. In fact, those life experiences are often extraordinary. I really enjoyed the way in which Chaon wrote about how that works. And I want to read more of him.
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