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From the Notables List–“Await Your Reply”

Last week I finished a novel from the 2010 American Library Association Notable Books list, “Await Your Reply” by Dan Chaon, an author with Nebraska ties.

Identity, it’s all about identity. Three strands of story eventually come together. One, a man looking for his missing twin from one state to another, following a tantalizing trail all the way to the Arctic. Another, a young woman who’s run away from Ohio to Nebraska with her former teacher. Finally, a man who engages in illegal financial activities with his father, travelling all over the country under various names. Each strand engages with that missing twin.

I had a particular interest in the Nebraska setting, which is along Lake McConaughy. In the story, Nebraska has been in an extended drought and so the lake is practically dry.  The two, George and Lucy, stay in a big old house just back from the abandoned “Lighthouse Motel.” One day, George shows Lucy the remains of the former town of Lemoyne, which was flooded out when the dam went online. Foundations, buildings, and streets of what used to be a town are visible on the bed of what used to be a deep lake. He tells her about his brother who died in the lake. He suggests that they’ll be leaving their old identities behind.

I found myself a little frustrated by the three strands of story because I wanted each one to get my full attention. Each is compelling on its own. Chaon draws people who seem real, especially in the way that they make room for other people in their lives, make adjustments, make accomodations, and then eventually wonder if they’ve gone too far, wonder if that other person is worthy of their trust. He places them in clearly dangerous situations with evil people.

I read this book fairly quickly–Chaon moves the stories along. I’m pretty sure that I missed clues along the way, but I appreciated the sense that Chaon was crafting the story well, leading to a reasonable conclusion. I was not disappointed.

I’ll recommend this to people who like suspense, who appreciate a mystery, and who enjoy thinking about what makes people behave the way they do.

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