Given that I love Halloween, you would think that I would love scary books and movies too. No, not so much. In fact, the last scary movie I actually sat through was the Blair Witch Project and I had the afghan over my head. I hid behind the chair during Silence of the Lambs. The first time I saw The Exorcist, I lay awake half the night and worried that my bed was going to start flopping up and down. No, I do not like scary anything. I prefer ponies and rainbows, thank you.
So, when I started listening to the book, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, I thought that it was just a literary drama. It was categorized as a “thriller” but I find that word to be vague. What is thrilling for one person is boring to another.
It was dramatic alright. And also psychologically intense. And downright scary. I could not stop listening.
From the very first chapter, and a scene where two men are racing down a deserted road in Saginaw County, feverishly trying to get to the hospital with the younger man’s severed hand in a cooler, Dan Chaon grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. The chapters interweave stories of seemingly unrelated people and events. Then, as time goes on, the stories begin to become more cohesive and meld together seamlessly.
The characters, just like the entire book, are bleak. We meet Miles Chesire who has been searching for his schizophrenic brother, Hayden, for the better part of ten years and we meet up with him in the Arctic Circle where he last heard from Hayden. Lucy Lattimore is a 19-year-old high school graduate who was recently orphaned and is now holed up in an abandoned hotel in Nebraska with her former history teacher. Ryan just found out that his parents are actually his aunt and her husband. Confused and overwhelmed, he fakes his death at Northwestern University to join his birth father in a life of petty internet crimes.
The themes were isolation, identity theft and abandonment. Nice cheery, feel-good stuff.
At first I was confused regarding how any of these subplots could possibly be related. However, as time went on, the characters started to cross into each others’ lives and then the twists and turns started to make sense. I didn’t see any of it coming.
So, if you like slasher films and bloody gore, go see Saw III, re-read Carrie or some other Dean Koontz novel. Or, if you’re looking for a book that will creep you out and make you wonder about the sociopath next door, try this one.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.