Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon, Ballantine Books, 2009, 320 pp
Wow! This novel blew me away. I read it for a reading group and it was my pick, but it turned out to be different and very much more that I thought it would be from the blurbs I had seen. Yes, it includes identity theft as a plot point, but actually it is about identity: how do we get our identity as a person, how do we become confused about it, lose it, change it? While identity is a timely concept and the story is modern, somehow Dan Chaon also makes it universal, timeless and personal to the reader.
Then about halfway in, I realized I was reading a sort of hybrid thriller and a mystery, so had to search back in my memory for clues I hadn't spotted as clues. Very tricky, Mr Chaon.
There are three story lines, each with its own main character, but whenever I put the book down, I could only remember one or at most two of the characters. I began to feel a little bit concerned about my short term memory and went through my daily activities with anxiety and other creepy emotions. Turned out there was a very good reason for all that, which I can't mention because it would be spoiler material.
I don't imagine I will ever forget this book although someday I would like to reread it. The atmosphere of our oddly over-connected but disconnected modern culture which the author has created just out of those common elements of plot, character and description made me look at several aspects of my life in a completely new way. Now that is some righteous fiction!
(Await Your Reply is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)