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Read All The Things! Reviews

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Stay Awake

Stay Awake - Dan Chaon The first word that comes to mind when I think about this collection is "depressing." These stories are intense, weird, and creepy. They haunt you and keep you thinking about them long after you finish the book. It takes a very talented writer to do that. The stories blend horror elements with realistic literary fiction to create something truly eerie.

The characters are lonely, scared, and confused. They don't quite understand the world around them and can't comprehend the terrible things that happen. They feel unsettled, and that causes the reader to feel unsettled, too. The characters are people who kidnap, kill, and abandon children; widowers who receive messages from the underworld; businessmen who drink too much; children who have to deal with the sudden deaths of family members; and parents of two-headed babies. The characters go to a lot of funerals.

My favorite stories are "Stay Awake," "Long Delayed, Always Expected," "St. Dismas," and "Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow."

"Stay Awake" is about the parents of a two-headed baby. "St. Dismas" is about a man who kidnaps and then abandons his ex-girlfriend's child. Both stories are sad and frightening. 

"Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow" is about the death of a child, but it is also about small-town gossip and the mixed feelings that surround an unwanted pregnancy. I've read stories that are similar to this one in the past, but the use of second-person narration sets this one apart.

"Long Delayed, Always Expected" is about a woman whose ex-husband has brain damage. It raises interesting ethical questions about having a sexual relationship with a severely brain-damaged person.

Some of the stories in this collection aren't as strong as the others. There were a few times when I wondered where a story was going, and it ended up not going anywhere. There are also a few typos ("you're" instead of "your," a space in the middle of a word, etc.).

But overall, this is a very strong short story collection. I enjoyed it.