Synopses & Reviews
Fitting Ends is the first collection of fiction by the acclaimed author of the National Book Award finalist Among the Missing and now appears in this newly revised edition with two never before collected stories.
Written before Among the Missing and originally published by Northwestern University Press, Fitting Ends features thirteen stories detailing the almost panicked angst of the American generation now approaching thirty. Struggling with gaps between youthful expectations and adult experiences, these characters long for understanding and acceptance but are thwarted by failed love, family disruptions, numbing work, and sexual confusion.
Chaon is one of the most promising new voices in fiction, and this re-issued collection offers further evidence of his unique talent.
"The best of these stories...possess a rare, disorienting force. When you look up from them, the quality of light seems a little different. Its a reminder to those of us who have almost forgotten what literature can sometimes do." Boston Book Review
"The most honest, observant and timely book written this year about the American generation now approaching thirty. . . . Each story pulls you into its subtle emotional vortex, largely because of Chaons knack for simple but poignant detail." New York Newsday
"[An] often perceptive, lucid voice." The New York Times Book Review
"Remarkable...Each story is a marvel of complexity, dense with meaning and nuance. ...Very few first works are as solid, moving, and pitch-perfect as Chaons."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Powerful...A writer to savor...Dan Chaon shows a marked affinity in both setting and sensibility with fellow Midwesterners Wright Morris and Willa Cather." Chicago Tribune
In this first collection, the recipient of numerous awards, Chaon has written 13 wonderfully deft stories detailing the almost panicked angst of the American generation now approaching 30. Like the families he explored in Among the Missing, the characters here are struggling with the gaps between their perceptions and reality.
About the Author
Dan Chaon has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories for his mastery of the form. His new collection, Among the Missing, is a series of haunting insights into the human experience, an exploration of what happens when life doesn't go quite as planned.
Reading Group Guide
1. Chaon has professed to being influenced by the well-known
old story, "The Lady or the Tiger?" Like that story, many of
the stories in Fitting Ends deliberately end on the edge of a
moment, leaving the reader to decide what the future holds
in store for a character. Do the stories point the reader
toward a particular conclusion, or do they leave the unanswered
questions entirely to the reader's own view of human
2. In "Presentiment," Rich thinks: "Love didn't have anything to do with the outside world: It just happened. Some mysterious brain chemistry set in, and you couldn't avoid it." Is his love for his autistic son really so mysterious? How does this example of love compare with others in the book? Are some types of love more positive than others?
3. Many of the young characters in Fitting Ends exhibit a great dread of the future. What does their pessimism stem from? Is it a function of psychology? Family and social circumstances? The larger culture? Do you think these young adults will continue to face the world with such trepidation as they get older, or is there hope that they will grow out of it?
4. A review of Fitting Ends in the Chicago Tribune said, "Dan Chaon shows a marked affinity in both setting and sensibility with fellow Midwesterners Wright Morris and Willa Cather." What is a "Midwestern sensibility"? Are there places in these stories that seem to particularly represent such a sensibility? Which aspects of Midwestern life does Chaon seem critical of, and which does he appear to view with affection?
5. In "Thirteen Windows," the narrator admits that sometimes he sees things that aren't there, and many of the other characters in the book struggle with skewed perceptions of the world around them. To what extent are the various characters' problems a result of misinterpretations of reality? To what extent are the characters lying to themselves? Do you see some of the narrators as more clear-sighted and honest than others? Which ones seem most trustworthy?
6. "Chinchilla," "Accidents," and "Going Out" all present children who must cope with a parent's alcoholism or mental illness, but every child responds to his or her situation in a different way. Why? What are the factors that seem to influence each of these children the most?
7. Ghosts and ghostly visions figure prominently in several of the stories. In other stories a memory of a person's past self haunts the present. What do ghosts represent in the world of these stories? What would it take to dispel these ghosts?
8. Several of the characters in the book have made an effort to break loose from their small-town roots, and they are often in conflict with those they have left behind. What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting off on one's own, versus the decision to stay put and remain close to one's origins?
9. In his interview, Chaon talks of being concerned about the order in which the stories appear in Fitting Ends. How did you approach reading the stories in this book? Did you start with the first story and read straight through until the end, or did you skip around here and there? Would the order in which you read the stories change the effect of the book as a whole? Why do you think Chaon chose to place the stories in this particular order?
10. The epigraph of the book evokes Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and Scrooge's desperate question to the Ghost of Christmas Future: "Are these the shadows of things that Will be, or are they the shadows of things that May be, only?" In what ways are these stories about fate, about the "shadows of things that Will be"? Are the characters' futures sealed, or is there hope for them to change? Are their ends really "fitting," or should we to take the title of the collection ironically?