four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
By: 
Dan Chaon
user_rating: 
0
A-YouRemindMeIn the opening chapters of this debut novel, Chaon introduces a host of seemingly unrelated characters in small Midwestern prairie towns. In 1966, the teenage Nora gives up her baby. In 1977, Troy and Jonah, each living in different Midwestern states, experience life-changing moments. And in the late 1990s, six-year-old Loomis disappears from his grandmother’s backyard. As Chaon reveals, these people form a distended family, though some connections remain unknown to them. In You Remind Me of Me, he alternately weaves, rents, and tightens the threads between these lost and broken people.
Ballantine. 356 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0345441419

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"You Remind Me of Me is not technically horror or suspense, but it does generate plenty of tension, in its very sensitivity to the perils and misadventures of domestic life. … [E]xpertly written and crafted, [it] is an admirable first novel and one of this year’s most involving and satisfying fictions." David Walton

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"All of these characters will inevitably and inextricably be connected to one another, but, as Chaon so effectively demonstrates, they live in their own worlds, where they suffer under certain slippery conceptions of who they really are." David Hellman

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The slow, painful revelation of the bond between Jonah and Troy forms the heart of You Remind Me of Me, and it is a tribute to Chaon’s considerable gifts that the truth, when it comes, deepens as many mysteries within the novel as it solves. … [T]he book succeeds because it make us feel the characters’ pain and inhabit a world in which desperate measures often seem like the only ones available." Tom Perrotta

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In creating a novel that plays with structure and time, Chaon, like his characters, may have made things more difficult than they need to be. But he gathers together the loose threads of his story and weaves them together to create a terrible rightness." Ellen Kanner

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is full of makeshift households that take the place of traditional families; it is also full of the wistfulness of characters who grew up without the conventional mom-and pop underpinnings of childhood. ... You Remind Me of Me is a lovely, insinuating book with a special staying power derived from its unrealized dreams." Janet Maslin

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[Chaon] writes compassionately about marginalized America, giving voice to the small but significant dreams that can serve as guiding stars in people’s lives." Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Critical Summary

Already recognized as a gifted short story writer, Chaon has been compared to such luminaries as Ambrose Bierce, Shirley Jackson, and Russell Banks. In crafting his first novel, Chaon’s short story sensibility pops up from time to time, particularly in the pacing and fragmented structure. Yet despite its jumpiness, the structure remains tightly focused on the characters. Chaon remains, both as a novelist and short-story author, an illuminating, haunting, and inquisitive writer. His skillful narration always centers You Remind Me of Me on two things: the search for family and, just as importantly, the accompanying search for self.

Also by the Author

AS-AmongMissingAmong the Missing | Dan Chaon (2001): ? Nominated for the National Book Award. In each of the stories in this excellent collection, someone or something is missing. In "Safety Man," a widow and her children become emotionally invested in an inflatable protector-doll meant to scare off intruders.