When Laura Kasischke took questions after her reading of In a Perfect World a few weeks ago, I asked her what she was currently reading and her response was Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply. I hadn’t heard of either the book or the author but once mentioned, the title seemed to keep popping up.
Await Your Reply is unlike anything I have read before and I’m having a hard time categorizing it. I suppose overall it is a psychological thriller, but it carries a literary depth which provides an eeriness that prevents the reader from settling into the book. You might call it “goth literature”.
Opening with an unsettling middle-of-the-night drive down a deserted northern Michigan road, we are quickly introduced to the character of Ryan Schuyler, the first of three who will provide the legs of the story. Quickly following are the intros to recent high school graduate Lucy Lattimore and the crucial character of Miles Cheshire. It is the action and dialogue of Miles that propels the story as we follow him on his cross-country search for his elusive twin brother Hayden who has been missing for ten years.
Unpredictability is but one of Chaon’s strategies that really worked for me, and as the three characters evolved I had no clue as to how they would ultimately connect. Though I’m not a huge mystery reader, I can usually piece enough together to make a solid guess. Not so in Await Your Reply. Shrouded in mystique, its dark apocalyptic feel left me uncertain at each and every subtle turn permanently lodging an unnerving flutter in my gut. The visuals really are that strong.
What I want to tell you is that Chaon’s book is just plain creepy and loads of fun, but this is not a superficial piece of work. And while it is certainly entertaining, the deeper hook at its core poses some serious questions of humanity as we consider dehumanization in the age of technological advancement. In the fluid world of identity theft, we are left wondering if people are really who we think they are?
-Post by Megan Shaffer