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You Remind Me of Me: A Novelby Dan Chaon
The gift of this novel is the aftershocks it effects. While enduring the jolts of its dark and stormy plot you roll with the punches, but when the commotion ceases you add it to your list of survival stories.
"You Remind Me of Me pulses with the emotional intensity [Chaon's] fans have come to expect....Chaon sinks gently and quietly into these sad lives, but moments of real fright spike through his narrative, and the poignancy of Jonah's desire for connection shifts ominously toward much darker tones. Fortunately, this is an author of deep compassion. Not all his characters attain the insight they need to fathom their hopes and fears, but a few do, and his readers will come closer to understanding their own." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
Synopses & Reviews
The eagerly awaited first novel from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.
You Remind Me of Me begins with a series of striking events: in 1974, a little boy is savagely attacked by his mother's Doberman; more than twenty years later, another little boy disappears without a trace from his grandmother's backyard; in 1966, a pregnant teenager admits herself to a maternity home; in 1991, a young man drifts toward a career as a drug dealer. Following the intertwined threads of these characters' lives, Chaon powerfully explores questions of identity, fate, and circumstance: Why do we become who we become? And can we change the course of what seems inevitable?
In language that is unflinching and exquisite, Chaon moves deftly between the past and the present in the small-town prairie Midwest. As in his celebrated short stories, he shows us the extraordinary in the lives of "ordinary" people.
"Three lives viewed through a kaleidoscope of memories and secret pain assume a kind of mythical dimension in Chaon's piercingly poignant tale of fate, chance and search for redemption. As he demonstrated in his short story collection Among the Missing, Chaon has a sensitive radar for the daily routines of people striving to escape the margins of poverty and establish meaningful lives. Here, a woman's unsuccessful effort to rise above the pain of giving away an illegitimate baby, and to fight against mental illness and offer love to a second child, blights all their lives. Living with his harsh and bitter mother, Norma, and his kindly grandfather in Little Bow, S.Dak., young Jonah Doyle is permanently scarred after the family's Doberman attacks and maims him. The resulting livid ridges on his face are the outward manifestations of a deeper wound that will always haunt him. After his mother's suicide, Jonah sets out to find the older brother he has never met, and in the process, brings them both to the verge of tragedy. Jonah's older sibling is Troy Timmens, a well-meaning bartender and sometime drug dealer in St. Bonaventure, Nebr., who is devoted to his six-year-old son, Loomis. The boy will play a pivotal part in Jonah's quixotic attempts to win Troy's love. Chaon structures his plot in alternating flashbacks, and the fragmentary time structure forces the reader to puzzle out the relationships and contributes to rising dramatic tension. Chaon's clarity of observation, expressed in restrained, nuanced prose, coupled with his compassion for his flawed characters, creates a heart-wrenching story of people searching for connection. (June) Forecast: Readers of Kent Haruf will find similarities here, in the settings in small towns on the Great Plains and in the dignified portrayal of people leading secret, stoic lives. Eight-city author tour." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[R]emarkable....[Chaon] weaves the threads [of his story] into a whole that is not only satisfying but devastating....In the end, Chaon provides his characters a commodity they seem unable to acquire for themselves: grace. (Grade: A)" Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
"[A] peculiarly haunting work....You Remind Me of Me is a lovely, insinuating book with a special staying power derived from its unrealized dreams." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The symmetries and compensations here are a bit too tidy, and though his final vignette leaves the reader astonished once again, the larger satisfactions of mature plot-making remain elusive for this powerful, promising writer." Kirkus Reviews
"Despite its fragmented, jumpy structure, the book has an unnerving tightness of focus....
"[G]rimly compelling....Chaon's finely crafted novel is cogent and suspenseful, but it remains mired in its magnetic, unrelentingly troubled characters, rarely offering anything that transcends its meticulously realistic portrayal of battered lives." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[A] masterly first novel...an absorbing tale....Readers who prefer expertly crafted plotting and strong characterization will be drawn to this novel. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Beautiful, painful, and sure-footed, You Remind me of Me tracks the delicate connections between a handful of lost and poignant lives, in the process giving them the radiance of a stained glass window. What a writer. Dan Chaon is going to have a breathtaking literary career." Peter Straub, author of lost boy, lost girl
"You Remind Me Of Me is one of the strangest, most beautiful, most compelling books I've read in a long time. Unnerving and real, intricately plotted, wonderfully written, it's a Chinese box of a novel, full of hidden pleasures and surprises." Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant's House and Niagara Falls All Over Again
"Dan Chaon's novel You Remind Me Of Me is nothing short of brilliant. The novel is haunting me and I can't stop thinking about it — both as a reader and as a deeply admiring writer. I wish I had a better adjective than superb." Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble
"Dan Chaon's writing has grown darker and deeper with time, and his new book, the beautifully disquieting You Remind Me of Me, is no exception." Sara Mosle, The New York Times Book Review
Why do we become who we become? Through the intertwined threads of the characters' lives, this is the question explored in this eagerly awaited first novel from the National Book Award finalist.
With his critically acclaimed Among the Missing and Fitting Ends, award-winning author Dan Chaon proved himself a master of the short story form. He is a writer, observes the Chicago Tribune, who can “convincingly squeeze whole lives into a mere twenty pages or so.” Now Chaon marshals his notable talents in his much-anticipated debut novel.
You Remind Me of Me begins with a series of separate incidents: In 1977, a little boy is savagely attacked by his mothers pet Doberman; in 1997 another little boy disappears from his grandmothers backyard on a sunny summer morning; in 1966, a pregnant teenager admits herself to a maternity home, with the intention of giving her child up for adoption; in 1991, a young man drifts toward a career as a drug dealer, even as he hopes for something better. With penetrating insight and a deep devotion to his characters, Dan Chaon explores the secret connections that irrevocably link them. In the process he examines questions of identity, fate, and circumstance: Why do we become the people that we become? How do we end up stuck in lives that we never wanted? And can we change the course of what seems inevitable?
In language that is both unflinching and exquisite, Chaon moves deftly between the past and the present in the small-town prairie Midwest and shows us the extraordinary lives of “ordinary” people.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Fitting Ends and the National Book Award finalist Among the Missing. His work has been published in Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The O'Henry Prize Stories. Chaon teaches at Oberlin College where he is Houck Associate Professor in the Humanities. He lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with his wife and two sons.
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