Fitting Ends
Dan Chaon
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Fitting Ends* online

Fitting Ends
Dan Chaon
272 pages
April 2003
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

buy this book now or browse millions of other great products at

previous reviewnext review

Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on Fitting Ends.

Dan Chaon’s title story "Fitting Ends" appeared in the Best American Short Stories 1996 and, in the appendix to that volume, he wrote a blurb on how he creates stories:

"Writing stories for me, is something like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I write hundreds of pages of fragments every year and put them in folders together, hoping they will mate…"
In the interaction between the quarreling brothers Del and Stewart in the story, it is obvious that Chaon has given a lot of thought to how they communicate.

In fact, Chaon has seriously and deeply analyzed young people in this volume of thirteen short stories and his first collection. These young people are extremely pessimistic and fearful of the future, and although there are signs in the stories that they will eventually be capable of holding their own, their trepidation is well captured.

A lot has to do with social circumstances and their family influences and being in small towns in Nebraska (familiar territory for the author). While Chaon is brutally honest and unflinchingly accurate in focusing on the failures and weaknesses of his young characters as they grapple with issues of sexuality, dysfunctional parents, depressing financial realities such as bad credit or dead end jobs, his stories may scare students into staying on at college -- for maybe another year -- rather than facing the prospect of a merciless world where things are so... cut and dried.

The tone of the stories is sober but solid and very touching. They don’t, however, conclude in some cases, highlighting the irony of the title. Chaon's choosing a location and dealing with characters who are fixated in their lives is reminiscent of James Joyce’s collection of short stories in The Dubliners, where he portrayed characters who have this inability to change their lives or their circumstances. They are powerless to exist outside of their given arena, as are Chaon’s young people.

The stories vary from a man who depends on his grandmother to energize his life to a party-boy who doesn’t exist in reality to the coming-out of a homosexual boy to a young man living with his brother and sister-in-law. All use different techniques and shifts in mood; for instance, in "My Sister’s Honeymoon: A Videotape," a brother views said tape and physically points out the changes in his sister throughout her life while he is visiting her.

Chaon's characters are stuck in the present with no clue as to how they can advance into their futures. Indeed, they are the sort of people Percy B. Shelley immortalized in his poem "Skylark": ‘they look before and after and pine for what is not.’ But things are not all hopelessness and despair, it is just not too certain.

This is the second edition of Chaon’s book; he has reworked some stories. His second collection of stories, Among the Missing, is also out. He is also working on a novel entitled I Wake Up. His work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The O'Henry Awards: Prize Stories, and has been translated into several languages. He is married to the writer Sheila Schwartz, and they live with their two sons and two cats in Cleveland.

© 2003 by Sonia Chopra for Curled Up With a Good Book

Also by Dan Chaon:

buy *Fitting Ends* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.