Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: "Await Your Reply" by Dan Chaon

Lately, nearly every book I read leaves me in tears as it draws to a close. This seems to happen regardless of the quality of the book or even the type of story. I have tried to analyze the feeling so that I can explain it to others, for it is not quite something so simple as not wanting the story to end. It is more a feeling of sadness for the characters in the book. The inevitability of their lives. Their moving on, regardless of which direction they are traveling in.

This book left me in tears for those reasons, but on top of that it was an amazing book. I am not sure I liked it. I am not sure it is the kind of book that I like in general, but it was definitely amazing. The author drags you along through a multi-dimensional story with a desperate and lonely cast of characters, all of whom come across as real to me.

The central characters in the story are identical twin brothers Hayden and Miles Cheshire. A twisted timetable garbles events in such a way as to keep the reader reeling without losing any one thread to the point of confusion. The overarching theme is the adult Mile's search for Hayden who has a history of mental health problems. All the rest would be spoilerish to share. (Some may think that spoilerish, but I think that much does not take away from the elements of intrigue in the plot.)

Besides the intrigue, the twists and turns, and the characters, the themes of dealing with desperation, isolation and loneliness pulled me along. The author does a great job of showing how these things drive people to make decisions that are difficult for others to understand. The story pushed me to explore my own identity and ultimately my own purpose in life. I thought deeply about my ability to create myself, my priorities and the interplay between my identity and my desires.

After all was said and done, this is the type of story in which not much actually happens. The point being that often, no matter how hard we try, not much happens in each of our lives, and yet, we affect so many other people. Then again, perhaps the point was that nothing we do really matters because when we move out of anyone's life their life goes on regardless. It is a tricky circle, and I will probably be thinking about these themes for awhile.

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