You Remind Me of Me A Chicago short-order cook whose face was badly mauled in boyhood by his mom's Doberman pinscher. A suicidal teenage girl at a home for unwed… You Remind Me of Me A Chicago short-order cook whose face was badly mauled in boyhood by his mom's Doberman pinscher. A suicidal teenage girl at a home for unwed… 2004-05-25 Fiction Ballantine
Book Review

You Remind Me of Me (2004)

Dan Chaon, You Remind Me of Me | AN AUSPICIOUS BOW Chaon's debut novel brilliantly inspires empathy for its cast of Midwestern misfits
AN AUSPICIOUS BOW Chaon's debut novel brilliantly inspires empathy for its cast of Midwestern misfits
EW's GRADE
A

Details Release Date: May 25, 2004; Writer: Dan Chaon; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Ballantine

A Chicago short-order cook whose face was badly mauled in boyhood by his mom's Doberman pinscher. A suicidal teenage girl at a home for unwed mothers. A Nebraska drug dealer whose wife, the mother of his beloved son, left him for full-fledged addiction in Vegas. A retiree who discovers that the grandson she has been raising alone has gone missing from her tidy backyard.

You Remind Me of Me, Dan Chaon's remarkable first novel, begins with snapshots that recall his talent for short stories (his 2001 collection, ''Among the Missing,'' was a National Book Award finalist). But then he weaves the threads into a whole that is not only satisfying but devastating: a portrait of a Midwestern middle class struggling against the particular realities of a failed ideal, redefining family in a culture of absent and adoptive parents.

The cast of misfits becomes so empathetic that their decisions -- however misguided -- assume the air of tragic inevitability. ''Why should it be this way?'' the grandmother asks at one point. ''Why should she have worked so hard to end up with so little, to end up fat and sixty-three, a divorced woman in a flowered shirt and tight shorts and flip-flops...?'' In the end, Chaon provides his characters a commodity they seem unable to acquire for themselves: grace.

Originally posted Jun 04, 2004 Published in issue #768 Jun 04, 2004 Order article reprints
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