Monday, January 11, 2010

Worth the Wait!

One of the most highly reviewed books of last year was Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. Publications from Publisher's Weekly to The Washington Post listed it as one of the top books of 2009. Of course, when a book receives near unanimous, gushing acclaim, it's generally a sure sign I'll hate it. My contrary nature, I suppose! Still, this book sounded intriguing enough that I was excited to read it. For once, the critics were right!

The book immediately grabs the reader, for on the first page, we encounter Ryan and his father on the way to the hospital with Ryan's severed hand in a cooler. Ryan has recently learned that he was adopted, and had just gotten reconnected with his birth father (and we see how well that worked out for him). Ryan and his father are momentarily left on their rush to the emergency room and Lucy Lattimore enters the story. She is an 18 year old high school student who, immediately upon graduation, flees her Ohio town with her history teacher, George Orson. Next to enter the story is Miles Cheshire, who cannot seem to get his life on track because he is constantly chasing after his schizophrenic twin brother Hayden. Miles hasn't seen Hayden for a decade, but there is the occasional communication from him, which sends Miles racing off to find him -- always too late.

These three stories form the basis of the novel, and it's great fun to try to dissect what's going on, and to try to figure out how they are all connected. All of the characters seem to be searching for something -- Ryan for a relationship with his father, Lucy for someone she can connect with, Miles for his missing brother.

I must admit, English major though I was in another life, I am a bit puzzled as to all the references in the novel to water (or lack thereof). The hotel where Lucy and George end up is deserted because the lake that used to attract all the tourists had long ago dried up. A swimming pool at a second hotel later visited by the couple is similarly dry. Then there is reference to many of the characters drowning -- although these accounts are all misunderstandings, misdirections and outright lies. Very strange.

All in all, the book provided enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved and guessing until the end. I'll be interested to see if this is made into a film. I'm sure it would be a hit in the right hands!

Final Verdict for Await Your Reply: Four Gherkins, for being an engaging and surprising book that lives up to the hype!

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