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A Novel

Written by Dan ChaonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dan Chaon

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On Sale: May 25, 2004
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-47871-9
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

With his critically acclaimed Among the Missing and Fitting Ends, award-winning author Dan Chaon proved himself a master of the short story form. He is a writer, observes the Chicago Tribune, who can “convincingly squeeze whole lives into a mere twenty pages or so.” Now Chaon marshals his notable talents in his much-anticipated debut novel.

You Remind Me of Me begins with a series of separate incidents: In 1977, a little boy is savagely attacked by his mother’s pet Doberman; in 1997 another little boy disappears from his grandmother’s backyard on a sunny summer morning; in 1966, a pregnant teenager admits herself to a maternity home, with the intention of giving her child up for adoption; in 1991, a young man drifts toward a career as a drug dealer, even as he hopes for something better. With penetrating insight and a deep devotion to his characters, Dan Chaon explores the secret connections that irrevocably link them. In the process he examines questions of identity, fate, and circumstance: Why do we become the people that we become? How do we end up stuck in lives that we never wanted? And can we change the course of what seems inevitable?

In language that is both unflinching and exquisite, Chaon moves deftly between the past and the present in the small-town prairie Midwest and shows us the extraordinary lives of “ordinary” people.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1

March 24, 1977

Jonah was dead for a brief time before the paramedics brought him back to life. He never talks about it, but it’s on his mind sometimes, and he finds himself thinking that maybe it’s the central fact of the rest of his life, maybe it’s what set his future into motion. He thinks of the fat cuckoo clock in his grandfather’s living room, the hollow thump of weights and the dissonant guitar thrum of springs as the little door opened and the bird popped out; he thinks of his own heart, which was stopped when they got to him and then suddenly lurched forward, no one knew why, it just started again right around the time they were preparing to pronounce him deceased.


This was in late March 1977, in South Dakota, a few days after his sixth birthday.


If his memory were a movie, the camera would begin high in the air. In a movie, he thinks, you would see his grandfather’s little house from above, you would see the yellow school bus coming to a stop at the edge of the long gravel road. Jonah had been to school that day. He had learned something, perhaps several things, and he rode home in a school bus. There were papers in his canvas knapsack, handwriting and addition and subtraction tables that the teacher had graded neatly with red ink, and a picture of an Easter egg that he’d colored for his mother. He sat on a green vinyl seat near the front of the bus and didn’t even notice that the bus had stopped because he was deeply interested in a hole that someone had cut in the seat with a pocketknife; he was peering into it, into the guts of the seat, which were made of metal springs and stiff white hay.

Outside it was fairly sunny, and the snow had mostly melted. The exhaust from the bus’s muffler drifted through the flashing warning lights, and the silent bus driver lady caused the doors to fold open for him. He didn’t like the other children on the bus, and he felt that they didn’t like him either. He could sense their faces, staring, as he went down the bus steps and stood on the soft, muddy berm.

But in the movie you wouldn’t see that. In the movie you would only see him emerging from the bus, a boy running with his backpack dragging through the wet gravel, a red stocking cap, a worn blue ski jacket, stones grinding together beneath his boots, a pleasantly rhythmic noise he was making. And you would be up above everything like a bird, the long gravel road that led from the mailbox to the house, the weeds along the ditches, the telephone poles, barbed-wire fences, railroad tracks. The horizon, the wide plain of dust and wind.





Jonah’s grandfather’s house was a few miles outside of the small town of Little Bow, where Jonah went to school. It was a narrow, mustard-colored farmhouse with a cottonwood beside it and a spindly chokecherry bush in front. These were the only trees in view, and his grandfather’s place was the only house. From time to time a train would pass by on the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the house. Then the windows would hum like the tuning fork their teacher had shown them in school. This is how sound feels, their teacher said, and let them hold their fingers near the vibrating tines.

Sometimes it seemed to Jonah that everything was very small. In the center of his grandfather’s bare backyard, an empty pint of cream would be the house and a line of matchbook cars, Scotch-taped end to end, would be the train. He didn’t know why he liked the game so much, but he remembered playing it over and over, imagining himself and his mother and his grandfather and his grandfather’s dog, Elizabeth, all of them inside the little pint container, and himself (another part of himself) leaning over them like a giant or a thundercloud, pushing his makeshift train slowly past.





He didn’t call to his grandfather when he came into the house that day. The door banged shut, the furniture sat silently. He could hear the television talking in his grandfather’s room, so he knew his grandfather was there, dozing in the little windowless room, an addition to the house, just space enough for his grandfather’s bed and a dresser, a small TV and a lamp with curlicues of cigarette smoke around them. His grandfather was propped up against some pillows, drinking beer; an old blanket, pilled cotton, silk edges unraveling, was thrown across his grandfather’s middle, an ashtray balanced on it. Tired. His grandfather worked as a janitor, he went to work early in the morning, while it was still dark. Sometimes when Jonah came home from school, his grandfather would come out of his room and tell Jonah stories or jokes, or he would complain about things, about being tired, about Jonah’s mother—What’s the problem with her now? Did you do something to get her mad? I didn’t do anything to her!—and he would swear about people that he didn’t like, people who had cheated him, or maybe he would smile and call Elizabeth to him, Babygirl, babygirl, what are you doing there, does a babygirl want a piece of lunch meat does she? and Elizabeth would come clicking her nails across the floor, her bobbed tail almost vibrating as she wagged it, her eyes full of love as Jonah’s grandfather crooned to her.

But Jonah’s grandfather didn’t come out of his room that day, and Jonah dropped his bookbag to the floor of the kitchen. There was the smell of smoke, and fried eggs, and the old food in the refrigerator. Unwashed dishes in the sink. His grandfather’s door was half-closed, and Jonah sat at the kitchen table for a time, eating cereal.





His mother was at work. He didn’t know whether he missed her or not, but he thought of her as he sat there in the still kitchen. She worked at a place called Harmony Farm, packing eggs, she said, and the tone of her voice made him imagine dark labyrinths with rows of nests, a promenade of sad, dirty workers moving slowly through the passageways.

She wouldn’t talk about it when she got home. Often, she wouldn’t want to talk at all, wouldn’t want to be touched, would make their supper, which she herself wouldn’t eat. She would go to her room and listen to old records she’d had since she was in junior high, her eyes open and her hands in a praying shape beneath her cheek, her long hair spread out behind her on the pillow.





He could stand there for a very long time, watching her from the edge of the doorway and she wouldn’t move. The needle of the phonograph pulsed like a smooth car along the spiraling track of a record album and her eyes seemed to register the music more than anything else, her blinking coinciding with a pause or a beat.

But he knew that she could see him standing there. They were looking at each other, and it was a sort of game—to try to blink when she blinked, to set his mouth in the same shape as her mouth, to hear what she was hearing. It was a sort of game to see how far he could inch into the room, sliding his feet the way a leaf opens, and sometimes he was almost to the center of the room before she finally spoke.

Get out, she would say, almost dreamily.

And then she would turn her face away from him, toward the wall.





He thought of her as his spoon hovered over his cereal. One day, he thought, she wouldn’t come home from work. Or she might disappear in the night. He had awakened a few times: footsteps on the stairs, in the kitchen, the back door opening. From the upstairs window he saw her forcing her arm into the sleeve of her coat as she walked down the driveway. Her face was strange in the pale brightness cast by the floodlights that his grandfather had installed outside the house. Her breath lifted up out of her in the cold and drifted like mist, trailing behind her as she moved into the darkness beyond the circle of porch light.

We won’t be staying long, she would tell Jonah sometimes. She would talk about the places where they used to live as if they’d just come to Jonah’s grandfather’s house for a visit, even though they’d been living there for as long as he could remember—almost three years. He didn’t remember much about the other places she talked about. Chicago. Denver. Fresno. Had he been to these cities? He wasn’t sure. Sometimes things came in flashes and images, not really memories at all—a staircase leading down, with muddy boots outside of it; a man with a fringed jacket like Davy Crockett, asleep on a couch while Jonah looked inside his open mouth; a lamp with autumn leaves patterned on it; a cement shower stall where he and his mother had washed together. Sometimes he thought he remembered the other baby, the one that had been born before him. I was very young, she told him. That was all she would tell. I was very young. I had to give it away.

I remember the baby, he said once, when they were sitting together talking, when she was feeling friendly, holding him in her arms, running her fingernails lightly back and forth across his cheek. I remember the baby, he said, and her face grew stiff. She took her hand away.

No, you don’t, she said. Don’t be stupid. You weren’t even born yet. She sat there for a moment, regarding him, and then she shut her eyes, her teeth tightening against one another as if the sight of him hurt her. Jesus Christ, she said. Why don’t you just forget I ever told you anything. I mean, I confide in you with something that’s very private, and very important, and you want to play little pretend games? Are you a baby?

She sat there coldly, frowning, and began to gather and arrange her hair, ignoring him. She had long hair that reached almost to the belt-loops of her jeans. His grandfather said she looked like the country singer Crystal Gayle. Don’t you think she looks pretty, Jonah? his grandfather would say when he was trying to cheer her up, but she would only smile a little, not really happy. He watched as she shook a cigarette from her pack on the coffee table and lit it.

Don’t look at me that way, she said. She took a sip of smoke from her cigarette, and he tried to make his expression settled and neutral, to make his face the way she might want it to be.

Mom? he said.

What?

Where do babies go when you give them away? He wanted to make his voice sound innocent, to talk in the way a child on television might ask about Santa Claus. He wanted to pretend to be a certain type of child, to see if she might believe in it.

But she didn’t. Where do babies go when you give them away? she repeated, in a high, insipid voice, and she didn’t look at him, she didn’t think he was cute or forgivable. He watched the rustle of her long hair, her hand as she ran the head of her cigarette against the rim of the ashtray.

They go to live with nice mommies, she said. After a moment she’d shrugged darkly, not liking him anymore, not wanting to talk.





But he did remember the baby, he thought. He and his mother had seen it at the market, being watched by a lady he didn’t know. The baby was pink-skinned, and had a tiny head without hair on it and it was inside something—a basket, he thought, a basket like apples came in at the grocery store. The baby was dressed in a green velvet suit with a Santa’s head on it, and rested on a red cushion. It moved its hands blindly, as if trying to catch air. Look, his mother said. There’s my baby! And a lady had looked at them, stiffening as his mother bent down to wave her fingers over the baby’s line of vision. The lady had looked at them, smiling but also frightened, and she had spoken to Jonah sharply.

Please don’t touch, the lady said. Your hands are dirty.

He remembered this vividly—not only because of the baby but because of the lady’s eyes, the way she looked at him, the sharp sound of her voice. It was the first time he really understood that there was something about him that people didn’t like.


From the Hardcover edition.
Dan Chaon|Author Q&A

About Dan Chaon

Dan Chaon - You Remind Me of Me

Photo © Philip Chaon

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.

Author Q&A

A Conversation With Dan Chaon

Q: This is your first novel, following two collections of short stories (Fitting Ends and Among the Missing). Was it difficult to make the transition to the longer form?

Dan Chaon: I found it very hard at first. I love the short story as an art form in its own right, and I want to continue to be a short-story writer. I am not one of those people who think that short stories are just practice ground for young writers to work their way up to writing a novel. Writing short stories is not necessarily good practice for writing a novel, because they seem to me to come from different parts of the brain. When I first began writing, I tended to be more interested in poetry. I didn’t start out thinking in terms of “narrative” and “story.” My earliest impetus for writing was simply observing the strange things I happened to notice in my everyday life, situations that struck me as compelling, anecdotes I’d heard, images, words, metaphors. A lot of the time, with stories, I’ll start out with a title and try to dream myself into the story that it evokes—a kind of subconscious exercise in which I’m trawling for some kind of entryway into narrative. As a short-story writer, I usually just start at the beginning and write through to the end. You’ll have some basic ideas—a character, or an image, or a situation that sounds compelling—and then you just feel your way around until you find the edges of your story. It’s like going into a dark room . . . you stumble around until you find the walls and then inch your way to the light switch. With a novel, on the other hand, the walls may not be there. You may be in a dark field. There may not be a light switch. You can’t stumble around blindly as easily and find your way out. You need to understand the scope and shape of the world you are writing about in a way that you don’t often have to think about in a story. But I didn’t know that at first. Going into the novel, I was pretty ignorant about the process, and I just had a kind of vague idea of a general theme I wanted to write about. I knew a few things about the situation and some aspects of the characters’ lives, but I didn’t know much else. So my first draft was a minor disaster. I couldn’t get a grip on the structure, for one thing. I tended to go off on tangents and get lost as I was writing, and I realized that the problem was that I was trying to write it as if it were a very long short story. In my mind, I had as a model the kind of short, “perfect” novel, like The Great Gatsby, which takes place in a self-contained period of time and follows a direct line of chronological action from beginning to end. But this conception didn’t work for me at all. I had too much chronological time that I was trying to cover and too many different character threads that needed to be fleshed out. The truth is that even in my stories I don’t generally think in direct lines, and what I had come up with was layer upon layer of summary, flashback, and interior monologue—a big rambling mess, with almost no scene at all. I was very lucky to have had an editor like Dan Smetanka. He was very patient and really helped me to see how to begin to restructure the material—how to think in terms of novelistic scene, rather than short-story scene, and how to begin to find an overall shape for the material.

Q:
The structure of You Remind Me of Me is quite complicated, using multiple points of view and a fractured chronology. Why did you decide to write the novel in this form?

DC: I started with a more traditional structure in mind. The first draft was in first person, from Jonah’s point of view, and started at the beginning of part 2, when he arrived in St. Bonaventure. I saw the action of the book taking place over a period of three or four months. But as I was going back and trying to rewrite, one of the first things I realized was that Jonah’s perspective was so distorted that he wasn’t capable of telling big parts of the story that were interesting to me. I was curious about what Troy was thinking. And then I became interested in Nora’s side of the story. And as I started to write about these different characters, I became interested in the ways in which their lives and their viewpoints contrasted and bounced off one another, particularly because the characters had such distinctive—even contradictory—senses of reality. The other thing was, as I said, the first draft of the novel tended to be pretty heavy with summary and flashback. At the suggestion of Dan Smetanka, I began to dramatize the important events in the characters’ lives: the dog attack; Nora’s life in the maternity home; the first time Troy smoked pot. And as I began to accumulate these little dramatized scenes—each one almost like a self-contained story—I realized that my original concept of the structure wasn’t going to work. Those months that Jonah spends spying on Troy in St. Bonaventure weren’t really the only center of the action of the book. That was only one layer, and there were other times and other layers that, in my mind, were concurrent and interpenetrating—almost as if we had six or seven television sets all tuned to different stations, but each of the programs was secretly connected to the others.After I’d accumulated enough of these fragments, I ended up establishing a skeletal structure for myself to work with: The novel is made up of three parts with twelve chapters each. Once I had some of those initial chapters in place, like support columns, I saw how they could be arranged to create suspense and how they could reflect off one another in interesting way. That collage aspect was actually eventually one of the most fun parts of the book for me because it allowed me to discover interconnections between the time lines and characters that I might not have found if I’d written the book in a more straightforward chronological way.

Q: It’s surprising to hear that your conception of the novel didn’t actually begin with the dog attack. It’s hard to imagine the novel without that central opening incident—but it sounds as if the opening chapter didn’t come until somewhat late in the process of writing.

DC:Well, the idea of Jonah’s facial scars was around from the very beginning of the story. One of the first lines I wrote was, “I like for people to look at my scars.” And in early drafts there were long first-person monologues from Jonah’s point of view. He talked about the dog attack, but it was never really dramatized. I think that a big breakthrough for me was a discussion I had with Dan Smetanka about it. He was like, “This is the most compelling material you’ve written so far, and yet it’s all in flashback and summary. Why don’t you sit down and write ten pages where you dramatize the moment of that dog attack?” And when I did that, it really transformed my concept of the book and how I was going to put it together. The dog started out as this very abstract violent incident in the past, but it ended up that the relationship between the boy Jonah and the dog Elizabeth brought me to a much deeper understanding of Jonah’s mental life. And Elizabeth the Doberman became an important figure in the book in her own right, and actually one of my favorite “characters” in the book.

Q: You have written before about being adopted. Can you talk a little about how your own experiences with adoption informed the writing of the novel?

DC: It’s such a hard question for a fiction writer to answer. So let me answer the easy part first. Yes, I was adopted. My parents adopted me when I was a six-month-old infant. I grew up in rural western Nebraska in the late 1960s and ’70s, the oldest of three children—all of us adopted, none of us genetically related. We knew we were adopted, but we didn’t make a big deal of it. Generally, I was very comfortable with the idea, though I did wonder, sometimes. In some ways, I guess, the experience of being adopted probably fed into a lot of the issues of choice and fate and circumstance that I find myself writing about frequently. Growing up, I was sometimes aware of the sense that there was another life out there that I might have had, or even multiple lives. What if I’d been adopted by a different family? What if my biological parents had kept me? I grew up in a very working-class family—neither of my parents graduated high school—and they were not bookish or artsy in the way I wanted them to be. I fantasized that my biological parents shared more of my interests. I imagined that they were writers or actors or maybe rock musicians.
But the truth was, I didn’t really start thinking about being an adoptee in any serious way until I was married and became a father for the first time myself. It struck me that my son was the first person I’d ever met who was related to me by blood. And I also realized that I didn’t have any medical information about my biological family. Finding such genetic information was much more complicated than I thought it would be. I ended up becoming involved with an adoption search group and learning a lot from them about the many issues involved for adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Eventually, I ended up getting in touch with my biological father—and developing a relationship with him. Meeting my biological father answered some of my questions, but not as many as I imagined. I had always thought that the traits I clearly didn’t receive from my adoptive parents must have had their basis in heredity. Yet, as it turned out, my biological father was very much like my adoptive father—both of them even worked as electricians! In some ways, it would have been easier to believe that the two of them were brothers than to guess that I was the son of either man. “Maybe it’s not nature or nurture, either one,” my wife said to me after I’d met my biological father for the first time. “Maybe you just invented yourself. Why is that so strange?” And it may have been that comment that ultimately formed the seed of You Remind Me of Me. I began to think about it: Do you invent yourself ? How much does nurture matter? How much does nature matter? And out of these thoughts, I had the idea of the character who eventually became Jonah—this literally scarred person who is involved in this kind of intense search for identity, while at the same time trying to escape his past. At the same time, I really wanted to avoid direct autobiography in this book—maybe particularly in this book. So while I was drawing on this fairly intense personal experience as I was writing, I was also creating entirely fictional characters and situations. I was worried about hurting the feelings of both my adoptive family and my biological family, and so I was especially careful that no one would mistakenly identify themselves as one of the characters. Ultimately, there are very few direct correlatives between my life and the events and people portrayed in the book. The one exception is Mike Hawk in chapter 11, who is based on a real person.

Q: That’s interesting. The idea of “reality” seems to be a big issue in the book, and I wanted to go back to the comment that you made earlier. You said that you thought that the individual characters had “distinctive—even contradictory—senses of reality,” and there were points in the novel where I had the eerie feeling that everything happening was a dream—that Troy and Jonah were feverish figments of Nora’s imagination, for example. At the very least, people seem to live so wholly in their own individual perspectives that they have a hard time interpreting and understanding one another. Was that part of your intention here?

DC: Well, from early on I wanted to play around with the point of view. I started out with a kind of distorted first-person narrator, and I still had that kind of uncertainty and slippage in mind when I switched to multiple third-person perspectives. I believe that one of the main ways we come to understand the world—and ourselves—is by telling stories. We narrate in order to understand our lives, to create order, and I imagine that many successful and happy people have a fairly clear sense of who they are and how they fit into the world. But the characters in this book mostly don’t. Jonah thinks he can invent a new life for himself through lies; on the other hand, Troy tends to accept the various definitions people place on him without much question. And Nora finds large parts of her own story slipping through her fingers, becoming indistinct and uncertain and, eventually, hallucinatory. I suppose, as an adoptee, I’m more sensitized to questions of identity and self-narrative. Growing up, I was always fascinated by genealogy, and I was shocked that so many people I knew couldn’t really trace their family lines beyond a generation or two. This may be true particularly in the Great Plains region where I was raised, where pioneers emigrated from the eastern part of the United States or from foreign countries, and very often completely lost touch with those that they left behind. But maybe this kind of disconnection is a part of the American experience in some ways. I’m fascinated by some of our social institutions—like the Orphan Trains, or the homes for unwed mothers of the 1950s and ’60s, with their codes of silence and secrecy. Such institutions are almost like machines made to create a hole in the sense of self. I guess it’s that kind of hole or gap in the sense of identity that I’m interested in. There’s something about this kind of alienation that I find profoundly sad and scary, which is why, I guess, there are so many ghostly and feverish elements at the edges of the novel. At one extreme are the fugue states that Nora experiences, so that she literally can’t remember weeks and months of her life—she can’t remember how she got pregnant with Jonah, for example—and those Nora chapters [13 and 19] were probably the creepiest for me when I was writing them. But I think nearly all the characters have these kinds of gaps and holes in their lives one way or another.

Q: One of the gaps in almost all of the characters lives is the absence of a positive mother figure. It seems as if there isn’t a single “good” mother presented in the entire novel. Why is that the case?

DC: Well, I think Judy is a good mother in a lot of ways. She’s a good grandmother, at least. But I know what you mean. I realized that this was an issue as I was writing, and I ultimately wasn’t sure what to do about it. It wasn’t entirely intentional—but by the time I was deep into the book, the pattern of lost and elusive and unreachable mothers had become really deeply entwined into the texture and mood of the book. If I’d tried to inject a “positive” mom into the book, it would have felt somewhat dissonant. In fact, at one point Troy’s adoptive mother had a much larger—and more positive—presence in the novel, but I felt that she actually unbalanced things—or at least diluted the mood in a weird way. I’m not entirely working from a point of view of naturalistic realism, in any case, so I don’t feel like I have a responsibility to be fair and equitable. Ultimately I decided that, for this novel at least, we just had to live with my world of bad moms. I’ll make it up to the moms of the world in another book, maybe.

Q: The issue of responsibility is an interesting one. Do you feel as if you’re expressing a certain kind of moral and social vision of the world through your work? How do you think novels are culturally significant, meaning how do you think they impact the world, if at all?

DC: It’s a hard question. I guess I do have a moral and sociological perspective, but ultimately I don’t think of what I do as rhetorical discourse. Instead, I think of it as very private communication between a writer and a particular sympathetic reader, a small, shared attempt. “To capture that trickle in time,” as Alice Munro says at the end of one of her wonderful stories. “To rescue that one thing from the rubbish.” The writers I admire, and the writers I aspire to be like, have this remarkable ability to enter into the consciousness, almost by stealth, reader by reader. There are certain stories and novels that I read over and over, ones that have deeply enriched my understanding of and experience of the world, and which have great personal significance to me—works that accompany me through my life almost as spirits that hover at the edge of daily consciousness; they are part of my thinking. If I have an ambition to influence the world, it is to have written something that a reader, a specific individual, will carry with him or her,something that he or she will love and remember. One of the aching and beautiful things about Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours is the way it suggests that a book might have the power to gently enter the lives of various people over time, over a century, and that those people the book touches become spiritually connected in a kind of chain. That’s not necessarily cultural significance, but to my mind it’s much better, much more lovely and hopeful, and much closer to what I think art is supposed to do.

Q: One final quick question—how do you pronounce your name?

DC: Dan?

Q: No—your last name.

DC: I’m just messing with you. It’s pronounced “shawn”—much easier than it looks.

Praise

Praise

You Remind Me of Me is one of the strangest, most beautiful, most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Unnerving and real, intricately plotted, wonderfully written, it’s a Chinese box of a novel, full of hidden pleasures and surprises.”
—ELIZABETH MCCRACKEN, author of The Giant’s House
and Niagara Falls All Over Again

“[A] piercingly poignant tale of fate, chance, and search for redemption.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“One of Dan Chaon’s many gifts is his ability to probe deeply and delicately into sorrow. This gift serves him beautifully in You Remind Me of Me, a novel about adoption, about the quiet sadness that lies at the bottom of all his characters’ troubles.”
—JANE HAMILTON, author of A Map of the World

“Dan Chaon’s beautiful, effortless prose commands the reader from sentence one, steering us from prickling unease to wrenching pathos, tunneling inside his characters’ minds and worlds with such authority that everything else seems to disappear. It’s almost frightening to be in the hands of so gifted a writer.”
—JENNIFER EGAN, author of Look at Me and The Invisible Circus

“Beautiful, painful, and sure footed, You Remind Me of Me tracks the delicate connections between a handful of lost and poignant lives, in the process giving them the radiance of a stained-glass window. What a writer. Dan Chaon is going to have a breathtaking literary career.”
—PETER STRAUB, author of lost boy lost girl

“Dan Chaon’s novel, You Remind Me of Me, is nothing short of brilliant. The novel is haunting me, and I can’t stop thinking about it—both as a reader and as a deeply admiring writer. I wish I had a better adjective than superb.”
—CAROLINE LEAVITT, author of Girls in Trouble


From the Hardcover edition.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Why did Nora give up her first baby and not her second? In turn, how did each child pay the price of her decision?

2. How do Jonah’s scars influence his life the most?

3. Why is Jonah so much more interested in the baby his mother gave up than Troy is about being adopted?

4. How do you feel Jonah and Troy’s lives would have been different if Nora had been honest with Wayne Hill, Troy’s natural father, about being pregnant?

5. How are Steve and Holiday, and Jonah important to each other? Why did their relationship end?

6. Why couldn’t Jonah recognize the circumstances he could change/influence so his fate would turn out differently?

7. How would Jonah and Troy’s lives been different if Jonah had been honest with Troy about their connection when they first met?

8. Why do you think Jonah didn’t tell Troy the truth about Nora’s life and personality when they first meet? Would this have changed the relationship between Troy and Jonah?

9. At what point did you recognize that Jonah has seriously broken with reality?

10. What is the significance of names in this novel? Why do you think the author chose each name?

Troy
The Mrs. Glass House
Jonah
Gary Gray
Mrs. Keene
Lisa Fixx
Loomis
St. Bonaventure




From the Hardcover edition.
Dan Chaon

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Dan Chaon - You Remind Me of Me

Photo © Philip Chaon

10/7/2014

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