Await Your Reply

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-06-01
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books

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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.

“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

“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

Author Biography

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 fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

We 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 fatherwe are on the way to the hospital we are on the way to the hospitaland 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.

A few days after Lucy graduated from high school, she and
George Orson left town in the middle of the night. They were not
fugitives–not exactly–but it was true that no one knew that they
were leaving, and it was also true that no one would know where
they had gone.

They had agreed that a degree of discretion, a degree of secrecy,
was necessary. Just until they got things figured out. George Orson
was not only her boyfriend, but also her former high school history
teacher, 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, and
she 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 had
never been close. Also, she had various aunts and uncles and
cousins she hardly talked to. As for George Orson, he had no connections
at 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 somewhere

They arrived in Nebraska after a few days of driving, and she was
sleeping, so she didn’t notice when they got off the interstate.
When she opened her eyes, they were driving along a length of
empty highway, and George Orson’s hand was resting demurely on
her thigh: a sweet habit he had, resting his palm on her leg. She
could see herself in the side mirror, her hair rippling, her sunglasses
reflecting the motionless stretches of lichen- green prairie
grass. 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, calloused
plumber’s hands gripping the wheel and her mother in the
passenger seat with a cigarette even though she was a nurse, the
window open a crack for the smoke to trail out of, and her sister
asleep in the backseat mouth- breathing behind their father, and
Lucy also in the backseat, opening her eyes a crack, the shadows of
trees running across her face, and thinking:Where are we?
She sat up straighter, shaking this memory away.

“Almost there,R

Excerpted from Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

More than a mystery April 16, 2011
I don't want to risk spoiling any part of this textbook for any potential readers because revealing any of its secrets would diminish the book's joy. I really want to tell some of the juicy bits and pieces (it's so tempting) but I don't want to risk spoiling it. This textbook is just amazing, without doubt one of the finest I've read in a long time. Goes on my personal all-time best list. No information or plot points here to help ruin your experience, just an unqualified recommendation. The first thing I wanted to do when I finished it was read it again. This cheap textbook was well written with a suspenseful plot which I thoroughly enjoyed. The price is very suitable and the book arrived earlier than the delivery date and in a very good condition for a used book exactly as described. I highly recommend ecampus for your purchases.
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Await Your Reply: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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