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Stay Awake: Stories Hardcover – February 7, 2012

75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Chaon’s (Await Your Reply, 2009)newest enticing short story collection embraces unsettled moments in which lives shift and unfold. In “To Psychic Underworld,” Critter, a recently widowed husband left to raise his 1-year-old daughter, begins finding random handwritten notes on index cards, currency, inserts in magazines. As the notes appear more frequently, he is forced to come to terms with his wife’s death as well as his place in the world. The haunting title story follows new parents Zach and Amy, whose daughter, Rosalie, is born with a “parasitic” twin. Tensions arise when Zach lands in the hospital after a near-fatal car accident and surgery to remove Rosalie’s twin leads Zach into a cycle of doubts and what-ifs. “Long Delayed, Always Expected” finds 44-year-old January initiating a physical relationship with her brain-damaged ex-husband, Jeffrey, as a way to escape sullen thoughts about her life and the future. In “The Bees,” a son’s sleep disorder becomes the catalyst for a father’s reckoning of the past. Chaon’s 12 tales deftly explore the reality and mystery of his characters’ unmoored lives. --Leah Strauss


“Eerily beautiful . . . [Chaon] is the modern day John Cheever.”—Boston Sunday Globe
“Powerful and disturbing . . . The shocks in this collection are many.”—The Washington Post
“Chaon is able to create fully realized characters in mere pages. . . . This collection is further proof that Chaon is one of the best fiction writers working right now.”—Omaha World-Herald
“There are not many fiction writers who can do what Dan Chaon can do. . . . [He is] a literary force.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Intense and suspenseful . . . a highly recommended work, not to be missed.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Mesmerizing . . . gripping, masterful fiction.”—The Plain Dealer
“Superbly disquieting.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345530373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345530370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon's fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Malfoyfan on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read most of Dan Chaon's work and completely enjoyed all of it, including this new collection of short stories. On the surface the stories don't appear to have much in common, but after reading for a while, you notice that many of them feature people who have been in car accidents - hospitals and funerals also seem to appear regularly. This probably sounds like a turn-off, but not really. If you have a taste for the darker side, you'll enjoy this book. I hasten to point out, when I say "darker" I don't mean blood and guts or violence - just a sense of being unsettled or a little disturbed.

Chaon has a gift for writing about very odd things happening to very ordinary people. It's easy to feel a kinship with his characters; they could be me or my friends and neighbors. What makes his stories unique is the mash-up of the "regular folks" and the weird and sometimes terrifying situations that Chaon drops them into. These stories include such scenarios as parents dealing with a newborn baby with a parasitic twin; a father experiencing a prophetic nightmare; a woman whose ex-husband has a brain injury which makes him like a child; a young man whose estranged sister starts calling him, bringing up repressed memories of a horrible childhood incident; a widower who finds himself a "magnet" for odd notes and a man who realizes he's made a big mistake when he kidnaps his former girlfriend's son.

Like Chaon's previous story collection, Among the Missing, Stay Awake is a book I could not put down. I felt the same about his novel Await Your Reply. He's one of the few authors whose books I would buy without checking the reviews on Amazon first.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Sottelbaum on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After reading a couple of these short stories, you'll know one thing for sure: Dan Chaon is a very talented author. His characters are done well, the descriptions are amazing, and the knack for showing rather than telling is wonderful. With that said, however, the stories themselves leave a bit to be desired.

The stories, while not interconnected, generally follow a similar theme throughout the book. Trouble is, the stories don't really leave the reader all that satisfied. I understand these are short stories, but regardless of length, I still expect a full story. At best, these felt like 1-2 chapter "preview" to stories. At worst, when the stories end, it felt like the story itself was a less than overt attempt by the author to make you think "wow, that was a real mind bender." Trouble is, they aren't mind benders. Then as multiple stories all have the same feel, it starts to wear a little thin.

For me, it's equally difficult to recommend and NOT recommend this book. The writing is very well done; the stories are interesting but grow old before the book is even done. Overall: combine the good and bad, and this is about average for the genre.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Leslie VINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you can call a collection of creepy stories beautifully written, then that is how I would describe Stay Awake by Dan Chaon. Each of these dips gracefully into sci-fi, horror and supernatural, but with a literary bent. The reader is drawn into each eerie tale, caught up in the suspense and unable to put the book down until the haunting conclusion.

This is a short volume which I read over a period of a week. A story here or there, savoring each before moving on to the next. The stories are not connected or related, yet they have a recurring theme. In each, the characters are suffering an acute loss. These are unhappy people, often in crisis. There are broken families, deaths, divorce, violence and in an eerie similarity, characters in two different stories fell off ladders and lost a finger in the accident.

There are twelve stories and most of them worked for me. There were a couple that I just didn't get, with the endings left open to interpretation. Others were quite clear but all were haunting.

I had to read the title story, Stay Awake, twice to fully grasp what happened. A couple, after years of infertility treatment, finally have a baby only to end up with conjoined twins. Only one is viable. Shortly after their birth the husband is in a horrible car accident. Reading it a second time I picked up the subtle foreshadowing of the conclusion.

In Slowly We Open Our Eyes, one that I found particularly disturbing, the powerful moment of realization after a truck hits a deer, or does it, comes at the very end. That one stayed with me. In Bees a now happily married father who has concealed his past from his family has nightmares about the wife and child he abandoned years before. The shocking ending was reminiscent of an episode of The Twilight Zone.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gary Severance VINE VOICE on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Dan Chaon is an Ohio based writer who has published three novels and many short stories. In this collection of short stories, Mr. Chaon explores the theme of deaths of loved ones and how these events change our relationships with others and change our self-interpretations. Each story is unique but has a common factor of the death of a child, father, mother or some other person close to the characters. The deaths are either current events or are part of the personal histories of the characters. The recent or distant memories of loss haunt the characters and emerge from unconscious storage unbidden or are deliberately retrieved. The focus of the narratives involves showing the cues that bring the ghosts of the past into consciousness and how the characters deal with them.

The uniqueness of each story causes the reader to become involved with the action described. The thread of death in the stories strengthens as the reader progresses through the book. Awareness develops about the thread and ideas that the stories are continuous, with secondary characters perhaps branching off from the action of earlier stories. Like the memory of a person who has experienced loss of a loved one, the reader's memory of loss in an early story is triggered by unexpected cues presented in a later one. Much like a person who has lost a loved one and repressed some of the memories surrounding that person, the reader must search her memory for connecting details of an earlier story. A hint of something may arise and the reader wonders is this what happened to the brother, friend, lover?

The stories also trigger memories of the reader's own losses of people who were important to her. She may look up from the book and recollect faces, events, clothing, photos, as do the characters in the stories.
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