9 February 2015

Review #142: Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
---- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Mark Wisniewski, an award winning American author's new novel, Watch Me Go is a mind-blowing literary thriller and is one hell of an addictive read that brings two unfortunate human beings together under the consequence of murder and gambling.

Douglas “Deesh” Sharp has managed to stay out of trouble living in the Bronx, paying his rent by hauling junk for cash. But on the morning Deesh and two pals head upstate to dispose of a sealed oil drum whose contents smell and weigh enough to contain a human corpse, he becomes mixed up in a serious crime. When his plans for escape spiral terribly out of control, Deesh quickly finds himself a victim of betrayal—and the prime suspect in the murders of three white men. When Jan, a young jockey from the gritty underworld of the Finger Lakes racetrack breaks her silence about gambling and organized crime, Deesh learns how the story of her past might, against all odds, free him from a life behind bars.

In the prologue, Douglas “Deesh” Sharp, an African-American, charge with murder of three white men including the jockey, Tom Corcoran, receives an unexpected and unidentified visitor in the Bronx jail where he is being held. Jan Price, a white woman, is here to exonerate Deesh of the murder of that jockey, but in return he has to convince her that he is innocent of killing the other two white men. Thus follows by the past events of both Deesh and Jan. And the author alternatively shifts his narrative from Deesh to Jan in order to unravel the mystery behind the killings. Deesh's story begins with the day when his neighbor asks him along with his basketball buddies to dump an old barrel large enough to hold a human body! All three of the guys knew there was a body, still they took the offer on the pretext of earning some extra cash. Things go haywire, when his buddy, Bark shoots a cop while they were fleeing from a race course. On the other hand, Jan's story begins when she and her mom moved from Arkansas to stay with the Corcoran family, and the son of the family, Tug, owns a horse farm. And in her quest to become a jockey like her father, Jan eventually falls for Tug. Read the book to see how the author brilliantly intersects these two different individuals lives.

From the very beginning, the author's slow yet evocative prose captivated me. Well, it's quite obvious that when an author uses two narratives in his book, it often becomes difficult to maintain the free-flowing of the narration. Similarly, for Wisniewski too, at times, the narratives became dull. Moreover, when both the stories eventually started to intersect, it seems that the articulate voice was lost thus making us feel confused with both the stories. But the strong point of the book which blindsides all the negative qualities of this book are the characters!

Deesh is an African-American man, who is often subjected to racism. Deesh is a confused guy from the very beginning of the page, more like an impulsive man. Yes he never thinks before taking a drastic step like fleeing even though he never killed a single soul, or like falling for strange stories or like couldn't be able to convince the DA that it was suicide. But as the story progresses, we see Deesh growing within himself and we become acquainted with his foolish demeanor, thus making us fall for him in the end.

Jan is a strong-willed determined woman, who was definitely quite blinded with Tug's love, whereas Tug was not that forthcoming with his feelings. Jan was trying to learn everything in the world of race courses, jockeys, and gambling since her father was a quite famous jockey.

Jan and Deesh will eventually strike you as someone quite brilliant, both lost in their world of mysteries, and it's really compelling to see how their fates become entwined together. But the choices these two characters make in the wake of crisis in their lives will simply astound you. Yes, though you see the story from two POV's, still the author leaves enough space for us to judge it from our own perspective.

Moreover, the mystery was so slowly unraveled by the author that at times, you feel like rushing to the end of the book to see the fate of Deesh. The author made the world of horse racing so dark and mystifying with his eloquent words. It is a novel which may not put you on your edges, but it is a novel that demands to be devoured in for a long time by absorbing it's dark side.

Salman Rushdie described this book as "irresistible", well to be honest, I don't know about that, but it's engrossing enough to pull you into the core of this heart-wrenching story.

Verdict: Yes it's a must read novel that is like a slow-motioned thriller but exceptionally brilliant!

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Mark Wisniewski, for giving me an opportunity to read and review his novel. 

Author Info:
Mark Wisniewski's new novel, Watch Me Go (Jan 22, 2015, G.P. Putnam's Sons), has already earned a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, made the Most Anticipated Books List for 2015 by The Millions, and received advance praise from Salman Rushdie, Daniel Woodrell, Ben Fountain, Rebecca Makkai, Dan Chaon, Christine Sneed, Tim Johnston, and Ru Freeman.
His second novel, Show Up, Look Good, was praised by Jonathan Lethem, Molly Giles, Kelly Cherry, DeWitt Henry, T.R. Hummer, Richard Burgin, and Diana Spechler.
Wisniewski is also the author of the novel Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, the collection of short stories All Weekend with the Lights On, and the book of narrative poems One of Us One Night.
His short fiction has received a Pushcart Prize and appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Southern Review, Antioch Review, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Yale Review, TriQuarterly, The Missouri Review, The Sun, and The Georgia Review.
His narrative poems have appeared in such venues as Poetry, The Iowa Review, Ecotone, Prairie Schooner, New York Quarterly, Post Road, and Poetry International.
He’s been awarded two University of California Regents’ Fellowships in Fiction, an Isherwood Fellowship in Fiction, and first place in competitions for the Kay Cattarula Award for Best Short Story, the Gival Press Short Story Award, and the Tobias Wolff Award.
He lives with his wife in New York City.
Visit him here

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  1. Thank you for this review, Aditi! Am particularly touched that you graced your take on the book w/ the Harper Lee quote, as my hope--during the 25 years it took to write WATCH ME GO and get it published--was that somehow Deesh's and Jan's story might embolden some readers to make inroads against racism, hatred, bullying, and injustice. Grateful as can be for your close & complete read, MW

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad you liked my review :-)


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