Await Your Reply: A Novel by Dan ChaonAwait Your Reply: A Novel by Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply: A Novel

byDan Chaon

Paperback | June 1, 2010

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about

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.
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s...
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Title:Await Your Reply: A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:368 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.7 inShipping dimensions:8 × 5.2 × 0.7 inPublished:June 1, 2010Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345476034

ISBN - 13:9780345476036

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good I read this after loving Chaon's Ill Will, and it was fine but a lot more predictable and I "figured it out" way too soon. I do think Chaon is really successful in capturing the literary aspects of a "literary thriller". He treats his readers as highly intelligent and there are a lot of complex pieces and characters, so it was still an interesting read.
Date published: 2017-08-19

Read from the Book

Chapter OneWe are on our way to the hospital, Ryan’s father says. Listen to me, Son: You are not going to bleed to death. Ryan is still aware enough that his father’s words come in through the edges, like sunlight on the borders of a window shade. His eyes are shut tight and his body is shaking and he is trying to hold up his left arm, to keep it elevated. We are on our way to the hospital, his father says, and Ryan’s teeth are chattering, he clenches and unclenches them, and a series of wavering colored lights—greens, indigos—plays along the surface of his closed eyelids. On the seat beside him, in between him and his father, Ryan’s severed hand is resting on a bed of ice in an eight-quart Styrofoam cooler. The hand weighs less than a pound. The nails are trimmed and there are calluses on the tips of the fingers from guitar playing. The skin is now bluish in color. This is about three a.m. on a Thursday morning in May in rural Michigan. Ryan doesn’t have any idea how far away the hospital might be but he repeats with his father we are on the way to the hospital we are on the way to the hospital and he wants to believe so badly that it’s true, that it’s not just one of those things that you tell people to keep them calm. But he’s not sure. Gazing out all he can see is the night trees leaning over the road, the car pursuing its pool of headlight, and darkness, no towns, no buildings ahead, darkness, road, moon.2A few days after Lucy graduated from high school, she andGeorge Orson left town in the middle of the night. They were notfugitives–not exactly–but it was true that no one knew that theywere leaving, and it was also true that no one would know wherethey had gone.They had agreed that a degree of discretion, a degree of secrecy,was necessary. Just until they got things figured out. George Orsonwas not only her boyfriend, but also her former high school historyteacher, which had complicated things back in Pompey, Ohio.This wasn’t actually as bad as it might sound. Lucy was eighteen,almost nineteen–a legal adult–and her parents were dead, andshe had no real friends to speak of. She had been living in their parents’house with her older sister, Patricia, but the two of them hadnever been close. Also, she had various aunts and uncles andcousins she hardly talked to. As for George Orson, he had no connectionsat all that she knew of.And so: why not? They would make a clean break. A new life.Still, she might have preferred to run away together to somewheredifferent.They arrived in Nebraska after a few days of driving, and she wassleeping, so she didn’t notice when they got off the interstate.When she opened her eyes, they were driving along a length ofempty highway, and George Orson’s hand was resting demurely onher thigh: a sweet habit he had, resting his palm on her leg. Shecould see herself in the side mirror, her hair rippling, her sunglassesreflecting the motionless stretches of lichen- green prairiegrass. She sat up.“Where are we?” she said, and George Orson looked over at her.His eyes distant and melancholy. It made her think of being a child,a child in that old small- town family car, her father’s thick, callousedplumber’s hands gripping the wheel and her mother in thepassenger seat with a cigarette even though she was a nurse, thewindow open a crack for the smoke to trail out of, and her sisterasleep in the backseat mouth- breathing behind their father, andLucy also in the backseat, opening her eyes a crack, the shadows oftrees running across her face, and thinking: Where are we?She sat up straighter, shaking this memory away.“Almost there,” George Orson murmured, as if he were rememberinga sad thing.And when she opened her eyes again, there was the motel. Theyhad parked in front of it: a tower rising up in silhouette over them.It had taken Lucy a moment to realize that the place was supposedto be a lighthouse. Or rather–the front of the place, thefaçade, was in the shape of a lighthouse. It was a large tube- shapedstructure made of cement blocks, perhaps sixty feet high, wide atthe base and narrowing as it went upward, and painted in red andwhite barber- pole stripes.THE LIGHTHOUSE MOTEL, said a large unlit neon sign–fancynautical lettering, as if made of knotted ropes–and Lucy sat therein the car, in George Orson’s Maserati, gaping.To the right of this lighthouse structure was an L- shaped courtyardof perhaps fifteen motel units; and to the left of it, at the verycrest of the hill, was the old house, the house where GeorgeOrson’s parents once lived. Not exactly a mansion but formidableout here on the open prairie, a big old Victorian two- story homewith all the trappings of a haunted house: a turret and wraparoundporch, dormers and corbeled chimneys, a gable roof and scallopedshingles. No other houses in sight, barely any other sign of civilization,barely anything but the enormous Nebraska sky bending overthem.For a moment Lucy had the notion that this was a joke, a cornyroadside attraction or amusement park. They had pulled up in thesummer twilight, and there was the forlorn lighthouse tower of themotel with the old house silhouetted behind it, ridiculously creepy.Lucy thought that there may as well have been a full moon and ahoot owl in a bare tree, and George Orson let out a breath.“So here we are,” George Orson said. He must have known howit would look to her.“This is it?” Lucy said, and she couldn’t keep the incredulousnessout of her voice. “Wait,” she said. “George? This is where we’regoing to live?”“For the time being,” George Orson said. He glanced at her ruefully,as if she disappointed him a little. “Only for the time being,honey,” he said, and she noticed that there were some tumbleweedsstuck in the dead hedges on one side of the motel courtyard. Tumbleweeds!She had never seen such a thing before, except in moviesabout ghost towns of the Old West, and it was hard not to be a littlefreaked out.“How long has it been closed?” she said. “I hope it’s not full ofmice or–”“No, no,” George Orson said. “There’s a cleaning woman com-ing out fairly regularly, so I’m sure it’s not too bad. It’s not abandonedor anything.”She could feel his eyes following her as she got out and walkedaround the front of the car and up toward the red door of theLighthouse. Above the door it said: office. And there was anotherunlit tube of neon, which said: NO VACANCY.It had once been a fairly popular motel. That’s what GeorgeOrson had told her as they were driving through Indiana or Iowa orone of those states. It wasn’t exactly a resort, he’d said, but a prettyfancy place–“Back when there was a lake,” he’d said, and shehadn’t quite understood what he meant.She’d said: “It sounds romantic.” This was before she’d seen it.She’d had an image of one of those seaside sort of places that youread about in novels, where shy British people went and fell in loveand had epiphanies.“No, no,” George Orson said. “Not exactly.” He had been tryingto warn her. “I wouldn’t call it romantic. Not at this point,” he said.He explained that the lake–it was a reservoir, actually–had startedto dry up because of the drought, all the greedy farmers, he said,they just keep watering and watering their government- subsidizedcrops, and before anyone knew it, the lake was a tenth of what ithad once been. “Then all of the tourist stuff began to dry up as well,naturally,” George Orson said. “It’s hard to do any fishing or waterskiingor swimming on a dry lake bed.”He had explained it well enough, but it wasn’t until she lookeddown from the top of the hill that she understood.He was serious. There wasn’t a lake anymore. There was nothingbut a bare valley–a crater that had once held water. A path leddown to the “beach,” and there was a wooden dock extending outinto an expanse of sand and high yellow prairie grass, variousscrubby plants that she imagined would eventually turn into tumbleweeds.The remains of an old buoy lay on its side in the windblowndirt. She could see what had once been the other side of thelake, the opposite shore rising up about five miles or so away acrossthe empty basin.Lucy turned back to watch as George Orson opened the trunk ofthe car and extracted the largest of their suitcases.“Lucy?” he said, trying to make his voice cheerful and solicitous.“Shall we?”She watched as he walked past the tower of the Lighthouse officeand up the cement stairs that led to the old house.3By the time the first rush of recklessness had begun to burn off,Miles was already nearing the arctic circle. He had been drivingacross Canada for days and days by that point, sleeping for a whilein the car and then waking to go on again, heading northwardalong what highways he could find, a cluster of maps origamied onthe passenger seat beside him. The names of the places he passedhad become more and more fantastical–Destruction Bay, theGreat Slave Lake, Ddhaw Ghro, Tombstone Mountain–and whenhe came at last upon Tsiigehtchic, he sat in his idling car in front ofthe town’s welcome sign, staring at the scramble of letters as if hiseyesight might be faulty, some form of sleep- deprivation dyslexia.But no. According to one of the map books he’d bought, “Tsiigeht -chic” was a Gwich’in word that meant “mouth of the river of iron.”According to the book, he had now reached the confluence of theMackenzie and the Arctic Red rivers.WELCOME TO TSIIGEHTCHIC!Located on the site of a traditional Gwich’in fishing camp. In 1868the Oblate Fathers started a mission here. By 1902 a trading post waslocated here. R.C.M.P. Constable Edgar “Spike” Millen, stationed atTsiigehtchic was killed by the mad trapper Albert Johnson in the shootout of January 30, 1932 in the Rat River area.The Gwich’in retain close ties to the land today. You can see net fishing year round as well as the traditional method of making dryfish and dry meat. In the winter, trappers are busy in the bush seekingvaluable fur animals.ENJOY YOUR VISIT TO OUR COMMUNITY!He mouthed the letters, and his chapped lips kept adhering toeach other. “ T- s- i- i- g- e- h- t- c- h- i- c,” he said, under his breath, and just then a cold thought began to unfold in the back of his mind.What am I doing? he thought. Why am I doing this?The drive had begun to feel more and more like a hallucinationby that point. Somewhere on the way, the sun had begun to stop risingand setting; it appeared to move slightly to and fro across thesky, but he couldn’t be sure. Along this part of the Dempster Highway,a silvery white powder was scattered on the dirt road. Calcium?The powder seemed to glow–but then again, in this queer sunlight,so did everything: the grass and the sky and even the dirt hada fluorescent quality, as if lit from within.He was sitting there by the side of the road, his book open infront of him on the steering wheel, a pile of clothes in the backseat,and the boxes of papers and notebooks and journals and letters hehad collected over the years. He was wearing sunglasses, shivering alittle, his patchy facial hair a worn yellow- brown, the color of a coffeestain. The CD player in his car was broken, and the radio playedonly a murky blend of static and distant garbled voices. There wasno cell phone reception, of course. An air freshener in the shape ofa Christmas tree was hanging from the rearview mirror, spinning inthe breath of the defroster.Up ahead, not too far now, was the town of Inuvik, and the widedelta that led to the Arctic Ocean, and also–he hoped–his twinbrother, Hayden.4The man said, “Above the wrist? Or below the wrist?”The man had a sleepy, almost affectless voice, the voice youmight hear if you called a hotline for computer technical support.He looked at Ryan’s father blandly.“Ryan, I want you to tell your father to be reasonable,” the mansaid, but Ryan didn’t really say anything because he was cryingsilently. He and his father were bound to chairs at the kitchen table,and Ryan’s father was shuddering, and his long dark hair fell in atent around his face. But when he looked up, he had a troublinglystubborn look in his eyes.The man sighed. He carefully pushed the sleeve of Ryan’s shirtup above his elbow and placed his finger on the small roundedbone at the edge of Ryan’s wrist. It was called the “ulnar styloid,”Ryan remembered. Some biology class he had taken, once. Hedidn’t know why that term came to him so easily.Above the wrist . . . the man said to Ryan’s father . . . or below thewrist?Ryan was trying to reach a disconnected state–a Zen state, hethought–though the truth was that the more he tried to lift hismind out of his body, the more aware he was of the corporeal. Hecould feel himself trembling. He could feel the salt water tricklingout of his nose and eyes, drying on his face. He could feel the ducttape that held him to the kitchen chair, the strips across his bareforearms, his chest, his calves and ankles.He closed his eyes and tried to imagine his spirit lifting towardthe ceiling. He would drift out of the kitchen, where he and his fatherwere pinned to the hard- backed chairs, past the cluttered constructionof dirty dishes piled on the counter by the sink, the toasterwith a bagel still peeping up out of it; he would waft through thearchway and into the living room, where a couple of black- T- shirtedhenchmen were carrying computer parts out of the bedrooms,dragging matted tails of electrical cording and cables along behindthem. His spirit would follow them out the front door, past thewhite van they were tossing stuff into, and on down his father’sdriveway, traveling the rural Michigan highway, the moonlight flickeringthrough the branches of trees as his spirit gained velocity, theluminous road signs emerging out of the darkness as he swept uplike an airplane and the patterns of house lights and roads andstreams that speckled and crisscrossed the earth growing smaller.Wooooooooooooooooooo–like a balloon with the air let out of it, asiren, a wailing wind. Like a person screaming.He squeezed his eyes, tightened his teeth against one another as hisleft hand was grasped and tilted. He was trying to think of somethingelse.Music? A landscape, a sunset? A beautiful girl’s face?“Dad,” he could hear himself saying, through chattering teeth.“Dad, please be reasonable, please, please be–”He would not think about the cutting device the man had shownthem. It was just a length of wire, a very thin razor wire, with a rubberhandle attached to each end of it.He wouldn’t think about the way his father wouldn’t meet hiseyes.He wouldn’t think about his hand, the wire looped once aroundhis wrist, his hand garroted, the sharp wire tightening. Slicingsmoothly through skin and muscle. There would be a hitch, a snag,when it reached the bone, but it would cut through that, too.

Editorial Reviews

“The brilliant Dan Chaon has done it again. Both a genre-bending whodunit and a profound meditation on identity, Await Your Reply left me breathless with admiration. The pages turn themselves.”—Justin Cronin, author of The Summer Guest“I’ve been waiting for somebody to write the essential identity-theft novel, and I’m very glad Dan Chaon’s the one to have done it, because he believes in real story and is faithful to the reader.”—Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections“This is a stunning and beautiful book. I must have read its final pages half a dozen times, just letting what lay packed and coiled within them settle into me. Out of pure loss, Chaon has created real magnificence. Await Your Reply attains a kind of blurry, bloodstained perfection.”—Peter Straub, author of A Dark Matter“I haven’t had as much sheer fun reading a novel in years.  Chaon’s characters are always so beautifully drawn that they hold your attention even when they’re just sitting and thinking.  In this breathtaking book, they do that and a whole lot more.”—Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier“Stunning…. Mr. Chaon succeeds in both creating suspense and making it pay off, but ‘Await Your Reply’ also does something even better. Like the finest of his storytelling heroes, Mr. Chaon manages to bridge the gap between literary and pulp fiction with a clever, insinuating book equally satisfying to fans of either genre. He does travel two roads, even though that guy David Frost said it wasn’t possible."—New York Times“I was completely hooked—a credit both to Chaon's intricate and suspenseful plotting and to some of the most paranoid material to hit American literature since Don Delillo's White Noise...Await Your Reply is a dark, provocative book; in bringing its three strands together, Chaon has fashioned a braid out of barbed wire.”—New York Times Book Review“(4 stars) A deliciously disturbing literary thriller. In the end, Await Your Reply is a story that unfolds with chilling precision. You'll be spellbound from start to finish.”—People“A tender, melancholy meditation on attachment and loss.”— O, The Oprah Magazine“Far more than an absorbing mystery, in this complex and psychologically astute story Dan Chaon put on a virtuosic display of his literary talent. It's a thrilling example of the best of contemporary literary fiction.” —Bookpage “Chaon deftly intertwines a trio of story lines, showcasing his characters' individuality by threading subtle connections between and among them with effortless finesse, all the while invoking the complexities of what's real and what's fake with mesmerizing brilliance. This novel’s structure echoes that of his well-received debut–also a book of threes–even as it bests that book’s elegant prose, haunting plot and knockout literary excellence.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review“So breathtaking… that the reader practically feels compelled to start the novel anew, just to discover the cues that he’s missed along the way.”—Kirkus ReviewsFrom the Hardcover edition.