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Among the missing
Dan Chaon
Adult Fiction CHAON

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In the 12 quietly accomplished stories of his second collection, Chaon explores the complicated geography of human relationships, from the unintentional failures and minute betrayals of daily existence to the numbing grief caused by abandonment, disappearance or death. Specific and disquieting absences an uncle who killed himself, a mother who vanished, a friend who was kidnapped haunt the protagonists, and a series of metaphoric and literal stand-ins take the place of what's missing. In "Safety Man," a dummy intended for crime deterrence propped in the passenger seat, it looks like a male companion becomes a kind of surrogate husband for a young widow, and for her daughters, an inflatable father; in "I Demand to Know Where You're Taking Me," a woman caring for her incarcerated brother-in-law's macaw comes to loathe the bird, its ugly talk transforming it into a symbol of everything wrong and incomprehensible about him. By and large, Chaon's characters are citizens of the emotional hinterlands, lonely even when surrounded: "How did people go about falling in love, getting married, having families, living their lives?" Even those who think they know the answers recognize their powerlessness, such as the father who, looking into his son's eyes, thinks, "I am aware that hatred is a definite possibility at the end of the long tunnel of parenthood, and I suspect that there is little one can do about it." And yet these stories are neither morbid nor even particularly melancholic. Singularly dedicated to an examination of all the profundity and strangeness of the quotidian, they are, in their best moments, unsettling, moving, even beautiful. (July 3) Forecast: A jacket blurb by Lorrie Moore and a five-city author tour may help sell this understated collection, which will be respectfully reviewed but may be overlooked on bookstore shelves. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Chaon's stories have been published in many literary magazines and have been anthologized in places like Best American Short Stories. In his splendid second collection of short stories (after Fitting Ends), the past always remains a huge presence. In the title story, a son unsuccessfully tries to strengthen his relationship with his mother. In "Safety Man," a young widow struggles to cope with her loss while bringing up her two young daughters, eventually making an inflatable half-man a part of the family. In "Late for the Wedding," Trent wants to marry his former college instructor; her visiting son reveals that his mother has been having affairs with her students for year. In "The Illustrated History of the Animal Kingdom," a Pushcart Prize 2000 story, a lonely newcomer, who fails in his attempt to form a friendship with a young mother in his apartment building, ends up feeling that the world is out of sync. Chaon's contemporary stories intimately reveal modern life and the secrets people keep. Recommended for all libraries. Mary Szczesiul, Roseville P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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