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May 1, 2012 / Leslie

Review: Stay Awake by Dan Chaon

Stay Awake by Dan ChaonStay Awake: Stories
by Dan Chaon

Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Publisher: Ballantine
Publish Date: February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover| 254 pages
Rating: 5 of 5

If you can call a collection of creepy stories beautifully written, then that is how I would describe Stay Awake by Dan Chaon. Each of these dips gracefully into sci-fi, horror and supernatural, but with a literary bent. The reader is drawn into each eerie tale, caught up in the suspense and unable to put the book down until the haunting conclusion.

This is a short volume which I read over a period of a week. A story here or there, savoring each before moving on to the next. The stories are not connected or related, yet they have a recurring theme. In each, the characters are suffering an acute loss. These are unhappy people, often in crisis. There are broken families, deaths, divorce, violence and in an eerie similarity, characters in two different stories fell off ladders and lost a finger in the accident.

There are twelve stories and most of them worked for me. There were a couple that I just didn’t get, with the endings left open to interpretation. Others were quite clear but all were haunting.

I had to read the title story, Stay Awake, twice to fully grasp what happened. A couple, after years of infertility treatment, finally have a baby only to end up with conjoined twins. Only one is viable. Shortly after their birth the husband is in a horrible car accident. Reading it a second time I picked up the subtle foreshadowing of the conclusion.

In Slowly We Open Our Eyes, one that I found particularly disturbing, the powerful moment of realization after a truck hits a deer, or does it, comes at the very end. That one stayed with me. In Bees a now happily married father who has concealed his past from his family has nightmares about the wife and child he abandoned years before. The shocking ending was reminiscent of an episode of The Twilight Zone.

These are not fun, happy stories. They will make you think. They will chase you like a bad dream. You will see shadows in dark corners. They are wonderfully written. This is a book I’ll want to read again for I’m sure I’ll see more in each story the second time through.

Source: Review copy through Amazon Vine.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / May 1 2012 6:21 am

    I think I might try the audio version. I don’t love short stories, but these sound exceptional and audio might be great. loved your review.


  2. mrsqbookaddict01 / May 1 2012 8:29 am

    I’ll have to think about this one. It does sound like a book I would like to try, but I’m not a huge fan of short stories. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I definately think it’s something I should consider reading.


  3. Suko / May 1 2012 1:26 pm

    A collection of creepy but beautifully written stories sounds great to me. Excellent review, Leslie.


  4. BermudaOnion / May 1 2012 3:49 pm

    I didn’t realize this is a short story collection. This might be good to read in the fall.


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