Book Review: Stay Awake: Stories – Dan Chaon

Title: Stay Awake: Stories
Author: Dan Chaon
ISBN: 9780345530370
Pages: 272
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this collection of stories, Dan Chaon explores the darker side of life through his characters.  They grapple with grief and loss, fear and anger, and change as a result of difficult events.

Review:

Stay Awake is a collection of dark and disturbing stories, focusing on characters that must deal with harrowing and life-changing events.  Though these are just stories, they seem completely real.  These characters are friends and neighbors, not just words on a page.  They are universal, and thus speak to the reader.  It’s incredible that, despite the fact that Chaon doesn’t have the canvas of an entire novel to develop his characters, he explores them fully and they seem completely realized.  It’s a testament to his writing prowess.

The story that sticks out most to me is The Bees, the first in this twelve story collection.  It starts out as a simple tale of a father and son, of a child who screams for no apparent reason.  But it turns out there is more going on under the surface, and Gene – the father – has been keeping a dark secret from his family.  This story was absolutely chilling and deliciously creepy.  Chaon had me hooked from the first few words, and the quality of the story took my breath away.  I don’t understand how Chaon wove such an intricate tale of horror with so few words, yet he accomplished it marvelously. 

If you’re in the mood for something dark, yet also quick, Stay Awake is the perfect book to pick up.  The stories, only about 20 pages each, go quickly, yet they are so well written that they will leave readers clamoring for more.  They are each twisted in their own way, focusing on characters dealing with difficult emotions due to death and loss.  Chaon takes amazingly detailed and relatively normal characters and puts them into horrifying situations.  The reader is thrust into the story, and it doesn’t let you go, even after the last page is turned.  I was thoroughly impressed with Chaon’s writing abilities, and though I’m not usually the biggest fan of story collections, I highly recommend this atmospheric read.

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Comments

  1. I am listening to this on audio and it is really deliciously disturbing and creepy. Like the guy is channeling his inner Stephen King or something. I love this stuff.

  2. I am listening to this on audio and it is really deliciously disturbing and creepy. Like the guy is channeling his inner Stephen King or something. I love this stuff.

  3. Probably too spooky for me!

  4. Probably too spooky for me!

  5. I just got this on audio from the library, and I am waiting for the perfect time to dip into it. I don’t think that I am really in the mood for something darker right now, but I should be soon. I am so glad that this book impressed you and that it was such a good read. I have heard many good things about Chaon.

  6. I just got this on audio from the library, and I am waiting for the perfect time to dip into it. I don’t think that I am really in the mood for something darker right now, but I should be soon. I am so glad that this book impressed you and that it was such a good read. I have heard many good things about Chaon.

  7. This was my favorite read last month, & I’m happy to see you liked it too. I read his novel Await Your Reply last summer, & it reminded me very much of this collection.

  8. This was my favorite read last month, & I’m happy to see you liked it too. I read his novel Await Your Reply last summer, & it reminded me very much of this collection.

  9. This sounds like a fantastic collection – sometimes short stories are just what I need!

  10. This sounds like a fantastic collection – sometimes short stories are just what I need!

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