Book Review: Await Your Reply

“At a certain point, you must be able to slip loose. At a certain point, you found that you had been set free. You could be anyone, he thought. You could be anyone.” –Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply

Title: Await Your Reply
Author: Dan Chaon
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Playaway
Publication Date: November 1, 2009
Source: My local public library


The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways–and with unexpected consequences–in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel. 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. They 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.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.

–From the Hardcover edition

My Thoughts:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten one of those spam emails from a person who claims to be from a foreign country asking you to help them recover their lost fortune in America (i.e. “If you give me your bank account number I will have the money deposited in your account”)? Are we all raising our hands now? In these emails the sender usually indicates that they “await your reply,” however most of us know that if we DO reply there is a good chance our money and even our very identity will probably be stolen. We also know that the sender of this email is likely not a down-on-their-luck foreigner from a third world country but a scam artist who could live anywhere in the world.  This fluidity of identity in the Internet age is the basic premise of Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply.

As indicated in the synopsis, this story is told primarily through the view point of three individuals separated by distance (and perhaps even time): Miles, Ryan, and Lucy. I quickly identified with Ryan (I mean he did go to Northwestern and all) and his feelings of  “not-fitting in” during his teenage years (I think we all feel this to a certain extent during this tender time).  He’s naive and optimistic, yet strangely jaded and passive with regards to his own life. Ryan’s story is by far the most strange, mysterious, and action-packed of the book. Honestly it was his story that really kept me interested while reading this longish and very dark book.

It’s not that Lucy and Miles’s stories were boring by any means…they were just slow. Really slow. I especially felt this during Miles’s passages. The prose would go on and on (and on) and never really go anywhere. I felt like I would listen to his story for 30 minutes and NOTHING would happen. Lucy’s story was similarly slow but also had the added element of unbelievability, which I think can be attributed to the fact that Chaon is a middle aged man writing about an 18 year woman. Lucy, as created by Chaon, is equal parts wise and naive. She is maddeningly blind to obvious things right in front of her, yet also possesses the cynicism and world-weariness of someone 15-20 years her senior. Overall, it was a combination that just didn’t ring true for me.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the character development and pace of the novel, I really enjoyed the exploration of identity. There is a school of thought out there that the “self” is immutable, that who you are and what you believe is ingrained within you. Chaon challenges that idea in this novel, and explores how The Internet Age can facilitate rapid changes in identity. It has certainly given me a lot to think about even though it has been several months since I finished the book.

On another note, I thought the narration by Kirby Heyborne was excellent. His voice was well suited to the male characters, and he did a good job with the female characters as well.

Overall, I would recommend this book to others with the caveat that it is a bit slow and has few light-hearted moments. The exploration of identity was very interesting, and the story has stayed with all these months since I finished it. I know I haven’t given this book a glowing review, but I am glad I read it.

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you have a review posted and I’ll post a link to it

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The rich character development and the exploration of identity
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The extremely slow pacing
  4. I would recommend this book for: People interested in issues such as identity theft and what constitutes a “self”


Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. victoria
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 15:47:45

    this sounds interesting but a slow-paced book can get old quickly 🙂

    thanks for stopping by my blog, even though i wasn’t a big fan of TLOF, I would still recommend it, to each their own, right? 🙂 It wasn’t horrible.

    have a great weekend!


  2. Trackback: Book Review: Thunderhead « Ex Libris

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