Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: "Fitting Ends" by Dan Chaon

This is a breath of fresh air as I ma closing in on my goal of 140 books. Maybe I read Among the Missing too quick, but even in the day that I finished this book, I was able to savor each story and enter into these worlds that Dan Chaon creates that are equal parts high literary study in society and intense and suspenseful narrative with many secrets that open doors to your imagination that all books should do. Chaon, who is one of the best writers working today, is a master at that through two amazing novels and two collections of short stories. He fits in perfectly into what direction modern fiction is going in how he blends high and low art into something new and creative. The people who inhabit these worlds all seem real and the actions they take, whether they are self-destructive or just plan stupid, always seem real and never come of as fraudulent or silly, and the most stupid things these people do always come from a place in Chaon’s mind that is respectful of their plight. The first story that deserves mention would be “Going Out” which shows the relationship between a father and son whose only sense of connection would be their trips to Alcoholics Anonymous. The father blames himself for the way his son abused alcohol and lost his chance of moving on to better things once he graduated college. But from the son’s perspective, he didn’t not only drink too much, but he sees alcohol as one of the only things that made him happy. He never killed anyone or disappointed anyone while he was drunk. All the happy moments in his life were a result of alcohol, and now he is lost and alone without the feelings alcohol gave him. These two perspectives work to show the reader how one solution to a problem is not always the right one. “Fraternity” is along the same lines as far as setting and characters go. After a violent car accident, two frat member’s lives are changed. One becomes the president of the fraternity, while the other one suffered irreversible brain damage and had to leave college altogether. Haunted by these memories, the new president, along with another friend goes to visit their former classmate. What they find when they get there is really sad and heartbreaking, especially when recalling the flashbacks to what the man used to be. Finally the title story, which is equally about a haunted stretch of road and a man’s feeling on his long dead brother, is both scary and painfully nostalgic for a time when things seemed better, and friends you used to know exited as flesh and blood instead of faint memories. Whoever says plot is worthless reads too many modernists for one, and has never read anyone like Dan Chaon. Pick up this book and his two other fine novels You Remind Me of Me and Await Your Reply and I promise they won’t disappoint you.
Rating: 5/5

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