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You Remind Me of Me Hardcover – May 25, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This first novel focuses on the disparate lives of a fragmented family as they struggle with the harsh realities of poverty, depression, and dysfunction. The story opens with Jonah, a troubled, self-involved boy in a small South Dakota town. Raised by a depressed and suicidal mother who never wanted him, he survives an attack from the family's Doberman only to be severely scarred on his face and hands. Jonah develops into a lonely and isolated man who tries to make connections with anyone willing to befriend him, only to push others away by eventually demanding more than they want to give. Driven by his need for acceptance, Jonah seeks out an older half brother who was given up for adoption at birth. Troy, a bartender and occasional marijuana dealer, has difficulties of his own: shortly after the disappearance of his wife, he is arrested and placed on probation and house arrest for drug dealing. He struggles to regain custody of his son, Loomis, a strangely intelligent and watchful boy, from his uncooperative mother-in-law and has little time for the hopeful Jonah. In what he intends as a gesture of brotherly friendship, Jonah kidnaps Loomis, meaning to take the boy to Troy. This desperate act ultimately leads to the dramatic yet real conclusion. A series of tightly interwoven flashbacks; deft handling of structure; and simple, precise language transform these characters' lives into a story that is highly readable, thought-provoking, and profoundly moving.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345441419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441416
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #819,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Looking at the other reviews here, I see that readers are either falling all over themselves or reacting very negatively to this book. Clearly, this is a novel that provokes strong feelings in people. So instead of gushing about the prose (which I do think is poetic and lovely) or railing on the characters (which are, for the most part, miserable... but some people like that kind of thing), I thought I'd try to identify some of the elements of this book that readers might find either enriching or problematic.

1) Structure - Dan Chaon is first and foremost a short story writer, and this comes through quite clearly in this book. Much like an Arriaga screenplay (21 Grams, Amores Perros) the chronology and cast of characters are fragmented and require a bit of piecing together in the beginning. In fact, I kept a timeline for the first ten chapters just to keep myself straight. While some people may enjoy this puzzle, others might find it gimmecky and unnecessary and not have the patience to continue reading.

2) Predominace of storytelling by way of characters' interior -

One reviewer I believe called this novel "claustrophobic", which I think is a pretty apt word. This is not a novel of plots and dialogues - most of the story is revealed through the memories and thoughts of a variety of characters. Very little happens directly in this novel, resulting in a sort of slowness, or lack of immediacy. Here again, some readers will savor this richness and pace, and others will find it aggrivating.

3) Tendancy toward melodrama and sentimentality - Remember the books in the first round of Oprah's book club (Jane Hamilton, Wally Lamb, etc.)? This book is ripe for this audience. This can be a very dark book, seemingly hopeless at times.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was extraordinary...a book that revived my faith that the novel is here to stay. The theme -- in Chaon's own words: "How can you be alive when every choice you make breaks the world into a thousand filaments, each careless step branches into long tributaries of alternate lives, shuddeing outward and outward like sheer lightning."

That's solid writing by a master in control of the process. The novel is, ultimately, about choices and alternate lives: what would happen if you were born to a different mother? If you'd grown up in a different place? If you had some kind of proof that you were unlucky? These are questions that we all wrestle with at some point in our lives; Jonah more than most.

There is ample foreshadowing that "something is wrong with Jonah": his child demeanor, the way he deals with the dog Rosebud as an adult, his own lack of involvement at the time of his mother's death. It is inevitable, then, that his appearance in Troy's life will eventually create what appears to be a crisis.

Each character is carefully drawn, even the minor ones. I could picture each one -- the twitches, the yellowing sheets, the gnarled hands, and most of all, the scar which, of course, is symbolic of the schism that runs through Jonah's life.

I highly recommend this novel!
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Format: Paperback
A very touching book. So well written. I'm thoroughly impressed, as are many others, obviously. A few seem to want to slight this novel, but I can't help thinking they don't fully understand how difficult a book like this is to write. Chaon makes it look easy, really, and that's a trick of enormous skill. This novel could have seemed fragmented, but I don't think it does because each different time and location that he drops us into he creates completely. He grounds us on each page. Each line and scene is so complete that there is very little that's fuzzy or unclear about this. Complex, challenging, yes - but unclear or fuzzy, definitely not.
Some reviewers have complained about the characters, but I think that's another strength of the book. Chaon has such empathy and understanding for his characters that they're compelling despite their obvious flaws. Yes, their decisions can be pathetic and painful and damaging, but people make decisions like that. Just because it can be difficult to read at times doesn't mean we shouldn't examine such characters, the lives they lead and the decisions they make. Personally, I feel for them all. I'm glad to have this time with them. I've more compassion and interest in adoption, and more appreciation of the family I have around me. Altogether, I learned from this book and enjoyed the writer's skills on every page. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
Dan Chaon writes beautiful prose, but it's more than just pretty words.

In his first novel, "You Remind Me of Me," he pierces to the heart his characters and makes the reader care about their fate.

"You Remind Me of Me" was one of those rare books I found literally impossible to put down. He introduces us in rotating chapters to a mother unable to forgive herself for having given up an illegitimate child and who can't love the child she has kept, the son who was given up for adoption and who is dealing with a multitude of his own problems, and the unloved son who strives to find his lost half-brother and, when he does, is unable to reveal himself except through gestures that raise only suspicion.

Chaon has a way of dealing with even minor characters that makes them stand out in the memory like someone you've actually met. And, the major characters - more often than not, you'll want to give them a swat on the head to wake them up and do what common sense dictates they should but never will.

It's a complex book about the delicate relationship between human beings and how easily those tenuous ties can create unimaginable tensions.
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