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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without a Single Clunker
In most "good" short story collections, the "great"-to-"clunker" ratio seems to run about 50-50. Let's face it. It's damn hard to come up with a dozen good-and-different ideas, situations, and/or conflicts; people these situations with compelling and well-drawn characters; and provide some sort of satisfying conclusion in about 20 pages of...
Published on January 13, 2002 by R. Rand

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1st story was my favorite
These stories about sad people are very readable, sometimes engrossing. The only one that really resonates with me, however, is the first, about the young widow and the inflatable dummy. Chaon makes the image of the dummy in the bed with her so natural and compelling; coupled with the widow's day to day ability to function and survive, raise her children, it is not the...
Published on October 12, 2011 by algo41


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without a Single Clunker, January 13, 2002
By 
R. Rand (New York City) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Among the Missing (Hardcover)
In most "good" short story collections, the "great"-to-"clunker" ratio seems to run about 50-50. Let's face it. It's damn hard to come up with a dozen good-and-different ideas, situations, and/or conflicts; people these situations with compelling and well-drawn characters; and provide some sort of satisfying conclusion in about 20 pages of copy. Many published collections even get by with one or two decent stories (aided by a fluke publication in "The NewYorker"), and the rest are not-ready-for-prime-time "filler." So, turning the pages of Dan Chaon's collection, "Among the Missing," you might feel like you've fallen into some great dream. Story after mind-blowing story, you keep waiting to wake-up to reality, to finally hit a clunker, but it never comes. "Among the Missing" truly deserves the superlative kudos blurbing its book jacket, (and it probably deserved the National Book Award, as well).
There is something or someone "missing" from each of the stories in this perfectly-titled collection. Although not ghost stories, the characters here are plenty haunted - most by a deep sense of absence. "Safety Man" touchingly paints a young widow's dependency on an inflatable version of a man to protect her family and herself, now that her husband is gone. In "Passengers, Remain Calm," another man has abandoned his family, leaving his eight-year-old son fatherless until his conflicted younger brother steps into that role. In the wonderful, "I Demand to Know Where You're Taking Me," a woman is haunted by her imprisoned brother-in-law and the knowledge of his guilt, and takes-out her lonely rage on a nasty-mouthed parrot. And, in my favorite of these great stories - "Here's a Little Something to Remember Me By" - an adult man recalls and relives the disappearance of a teenage friend, and the secrets about the missing boy that he's never told, and never will tell.
It's a great treat to find a short story that dazzles you, shocks you, touches you, makes you laugh and is written with elegance, power and beauty. Finding a dozen of them - as you do in Dan Chaon's "Among the Missing" - is amazing. This collection is an amazing literary accomplishment.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Author with Finger on America's Pulse, September 21, 2001
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This review is from: Among the Missing (Hardcover)
Among the plethora of short story collections that thankfully are gracing our bookstores and libraries Dan Chaon's "Among the Missing" is among the best. These beautifully constructed, elegantly conceived and written stories are rare insights into the alienation and angst that blankets our population. For decades the families of America have been disintegrating by divorce, by substance abuse, by diminished parenting skills and we are left with a landscape peopled by young and middle-aged men and women who find it increasingly difficult to connect to their roots, to any semblance of family history, to significant realtionships - primarily because of the lack of consistent and reliable role models. This is not to suggest that Chaon is bent on telling depressing yarns that exceed the realm of "ususal people". Quite the contrary, he creates people and parent/child tales that sorrowfully inform us just how universal some of our own fears and insecurites are. Chaon is not a preachy author: he pulls us in to stories that hypnotize because of the astonishing degree of interestingly creative tales. He paints landscapes and houses and faces with such deft strokes that were it not for the fact that these stories are fiction he could be labelled a literary photo-realist. For all the inherent sadness in his characters we are never drowned in depression. Chaon can make sinister and sad memories somehow tender connections to people about whom we've grown to care very much. We all await his upcoming novel!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't be disappointed!, November 1, 2001
This review is from: Among the Missing (Hardcover)
This bittersweet collection by Dan Chaon is an emotional collage of stories related only by theme: someone, or something, is missing. What these characters miss most is understanding of their lives and those of their loved ones. Parents, in particular, can be touched physically but never truly known because their private moments are too far out of reach. Sometimes the absence in these stories is real: a missing family ("Among the Missing) or an arm ("Prothesis"). Mostly, however, the gaping hole is more internal, such as the difficult reality forgotten by the odd, overly imaginative boy in "Big Me." In these stories, people are strangers to one another, even though they might live together or profoundly and unwittingly affect the course of one another's lives.
Chaon uses uncomplicated language that disarms the reader with its simplicity. His prose is so undemanding on the surface that the emotion undercurrents can sneak up on you, such as in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom" when the final line of the story gives us a glimpse of the desperation, loneliness, and incomprehension of the protagonist: "He could have sworn in his heart that something terrible had happened to the world, and that everyone knew it but him."
If you are a reader of short fiction, you won't be disappointed with AMONG THE MISSING.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Missing And Marginalized, December 13, 2001
This review is from: Among the Missing (Hardcover)
Mr. Don Chaon's work, "Among The Missing", lost out to, "The Corrections", for the best work of fiction for The National Book Awards, I have not read the winning novel, however it must have been very good to share company with these dozen tales. Many of these stories while not mainstream America are all too familiar. Mr. Chaon takes some very common events and makes them noteworthy with their conclusions.
The stories are not narrow variations on a theme, some center on an event, others on a group, and still others on individuals. The opening story, "Safety Man", would seem to belong in the category of the surreal from the comments on the book jacket. It is an altogether serious look at how loss is mitigated, and how solutions/substitutions that are not readily apparent can be legitimate. "Among The Missing", that also titles the book will bring memories from the real world to mind at once. A family outing in their car could not be a more normal event. The final locale continues to include the entire family much as they started out, however with a great mystery and tragedy as the destination.
One of the stories that stood out in my reading was, "Passengers, Remain Calm". This story veers away from its title immediately and barely makes it back, or not, depending on your interpretation. A carnival again is an event that is familiar to the majority of readers, however Mr. Chaon sees this event through a relationship, and does so through his unique view. In this and others stories that struggle to rise above melancholy, or worse, even here the spin leaves the reader feeling ambivalent.
This is the first time I have read this man's work, and I will certainly pursue more. This is not a book that will lift your spirits, but I don't believe that was his goal. He offers a grim view that is all too familiar.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thus far, the best the summer has to offer, July 18, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Among the Missing (Hardcover)
Alternately funny and heartbreaking, Dan Chaon's second collection is perhaps the most intelligent book to arrive this summer season. I highly recommend this book to readers of literary fiction. Among the Missing is a story collection not unlike Lorrie Moore's Birds of America. Both collections sustain throughout all their stories a cohesive sense of theme and atmosphere, but that having been said are neither repetitive nor uninteresting. Rather, Among the Missing is like a solid record album; every track(story) could be a hit, some songs are more danceable than others, but taken as a whole, it's a masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Familiar and Expertly Written, February 12, 2007
This review is from: Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
This National Book Award finalist is a short story collection by an author I was not familiar with. As usual, my friend Tom, known for helping me meet quality authors, brought him to my attention literally on my thirtieth birthday. I am so glad he did.

My initial reaction to the short stories in this novel was somewhat negative as I thought here we had yet another author working through his issues from childhood. However, while many of his stories still strike me as such, they really are pleasurable to read. I think the author's technique is what I find so attractive about this work.

His stories are completely relatable. We've all felt, experienced, or imagined at least on a peripheral level the plights of his characters, and so it is not terribly difficult for us to become personally invested in them. And trust me, some of these stories we will be quite humiliated to find familiar.

Another talent the author has is the ability to make us feel as though we've gone on an epic voyage by the end of one of his short stories, yet we then realize it was only a few pages long! I think some writers have an intangible quality that sets them apart from other authors and Chaon's is certainly the skill to give us a total and complete story without telling us hardly anything at all.

I really enjoyed this book and if you like reading short story collections I think Chaon will satisfy.

~Scott William Foley, author of The Imagination's Provocation: Volume I: A Collection of Short Stories
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Missing Here, March 25, 2002
By 
Roberta Proctor (Coral Gables, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
It's amazing, in a sad way, how many readers believe the short story genre to be either a training ground for the young novelist, or fiction light. If I had a nickel, as the saying goes, for every time someone has refused a story collection because she wanted something more "substantial," I'd be lolling around on a beach somewhere. These days, lots of great story collections are proving these people wrong. Dagoberto Gilb's "Woodcuts of Women," Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies," Justin Cronin's "Mary and O'Neill," Ha Jin's "Bridegroom" and Elizabeth Stuckey-French's "First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa" are some of the strongest collections in a half century-and all appeared in the last 3 years. Dan Chaon's "Among the Missing" joins these fine collections.
Suffused with Midwestern loneliness, Chaon's stories are sometimes raw, but always clever. The cover design, whose single image-a copper-colored bird cage against a white plane-which will explain itself in one of the stories, prepares us for the Zen-like clarity of the tales to follow, and the theme of those missing (as the bird cage is empty, its door swung eerily open). These stories are not like a Wally Lamb novel, crammed so full of images that it's nearly exhausting (and I say this having liked very much "She's Come Undone," by the way). Instead, there is a lot of mental white space in each story so that the scenes within stand as solitary and three dimensional as the bird cage on the cover. I can't imagine, for example, charging on to the next story after reading "I Demand to Know Where You're Taking Me;" the end of that story demands a breather.
A few characters here are awakening out of deceptions they have created to keep their lives a bit tidy, and it is during these stories that the untidying begins. It is for this reason, then, that the book title is more than just one of the story titles having floated to the top. So many people in this book have gone missing. In the opening story, "Safety Man" a young widow works to keep going after her husband's death; in the title story the narrator's mother mysteriously disappears; in "Here's a Little Something to Remember Me By," the narrator continues to struggle with the aftermath of his childhood friend's disappearance 15 years earlier, and in "Passengers Remain Calm," a young man helps care for his nephew after the boy's father leaves home, likely for good. If it sounds as if these stories are a bit haunting, they are. The emotionally windswept characters in "Among the Missing" struggle to keep on keeping on, and in the face of the disappearance of others, confront absent parts of themselves as well. So, in this way there's a double dose of loss here-actual people are lost and then the characters left behind tally up their own losses besides. It's all a bit grim, but wonderful.
Chaon writes clearly, directly. Sentences are re-read for their simple elegance, the stories re-read for their dark pleasure, and the characters revisited for their odd familiarity. Good for Dan Chaon, who writes so much life truth within his fiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Trips Across the Dark Terrain of the Soul, April 20, 2005
By 
Bohdan Kot (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
Pop a Zoloft before reading Among the Missing, a collection of 12 short stories by Dan Chaon. Chaon's stories are hauntingly convincing. The reader quickly gets a feel for the characters, and one's sympathy will deepen as these beautifully-written pieces unfold.

The stories are the antithesis of TV's "Leave It to Beaver" family. The modern families portrayed here ache. The theme of disconnection envelops them like a stranglehold. Like the lead character of "Here's a Little Something to Remember Me By," who feels distant from his family due to the boyhood secrets he harbors, each protagonist in the collection desperately yearns to be connected with his or her family.

Chaon traverses the terrain of the human psyche - places many would rather keep dark - in seamless fashion. Men and women wonder how they got to the present place in their lives, and the reader is propelled to join their exploration. The author's plot lines are intriguing and often electric. Chaon's stories walk into your heart and touch the bruised parts. You may be left feeling sad, but you will appreciate having taken the journey.

Bohdan Kot
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, haunting stories, July 27, 2006
By 
Anthony J Novak (Playa del Rey, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
This book was nominated for the National Book Award. And if you take a look at books previously nominated for this award, you will find many gems (see also Blue Angel, and Feast of Love).

This book is a collection of short stories from a relatively new author named Dan Chaon. Chaon has a unique voice and a very distinct tone. His stories mesh the everydayness of life with a hint of the supernatural. Many of the stories deal with mysteries and unexplained things (such as a young man who discovers that his mother just disappeared one day).

The characters are easy to identify with, and Chaon unravels the narrative with pinpoint precision.

The best story of the bunch is "Here's a Little Something to Remember Me By." The story centers on a teenager who is the last person to see a boy named Ricky before he mysteriously disappears. The teenager grows up and forms a relationship with Ricky's parents--mostly due to the connection that he and the parents share with the departed.

The man begins to reveal more and more about the disappearance of the boy, and by the end of the story, you will be amazed at how honest Chaon is to his characters and just how well he can mix realism with mystery and the unknown.

"I Demand to Know Where You're Taking Me," "Big Me," "Among the Missing," "Late for the Wedding," and "Burn with Me" are also very excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No duds here!, March 22, 2002
By 
J. Fercho (Calgary, AB. Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
I am not typically a reader of short story collections, there are usually too many mediocre efforts thrown in with the odd good one. What a pleasant surprize to find a collection of superb short stories, no duds in the bunch. These are not happy tales, most of them are odd, unnerving and even disturbing. Something or someone is "missing" in each story. The reader is taken on a sometimes shocking, sometimes subtle ride through the secret thoughts and actions of it's characters. My personal favorites were, I demand to know where you're taking me, Among the missing and Here's a little something to remember me by. If you are a reader of short stories (or not), you will not be disappointed with this effort.
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Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle) by Dan Chaon (Paperback - January 29, 2002)
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