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Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

Watch Me Go

by Mark Wisniewski

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Holy kee-RAP, but this is a good book! I mean, holy sh-, oops, I don't think Amazon allows that word, ubiquitous though it may be in everyday speech. I mean, I LOVED this book.

But why? Why did I like it so much? That is the question. Because it seems so unlikely to be a successful story. Author Mark Wisniewski is obviously this white Polish-American guy, one who can write "like nobody's business," as my dad used to say. But WATCH ME GO has two main characters that are so unlike him, and so unlike what his own personal experience must have been, that it's just difficult to quite figure out how it all WORKS so damn well.

The two main characters here - both narrators, as the PoV shifts back and forth in alternating chapters - are Douglas "Deesh" Sharp, an African-American inner-city Bronx guy, mid-thirties, stuck in dead-end scut work jobs; and Jan Price, early 20s, child of a dead jockey, who returns to the Upstate Finger Lakes region with her mother to revisit the Corcorans, a horse-racing - and gambling - family who'd been friends of Jan's parents before she was born. So you see what I mean - I hope. Somehow Wisniewski manages to get inside the heads of an inner-city black guy and a young horse-loving woman from Arkansas, brought back to the Upstate horse country where she was conceived, and where her father died before she was born. And I say "inside the heads" because their stories are told as mostly interior monologues, with a little dialogue thrown in here and there. And, despite the fact that everything is presented in perfectly standard English, with no attempt to duplicate inner city black street dialect or Southern chick talk, it WORKS.

There is murder in the plot - three of them, in fact. There is much about the pull of gambling addictions and family relationships. There are bits of basketball, brotherhood and betrayal, from Deesh's high school days with Bark and James, two close friends. Race and stereotyping play a part. Love and hate are examined in great detail, often by the most unlikely characters, one of whom explains to Deesh that this country is "just one big old melting pot of hatred. And it just keeps boiling."

In a similar scene, Jan, considering the sickness of gambling, thinks, "Sure, winning felt good, very, very, good, but a victory in a horse race takes very little time, a very small fraction of your life. And then there ends up being the whole rest of your life, where you feel caught in this tangle of beauty and ugliness."

Or on love, Jan, who is falling for Tug, the Corcorans' son, wonders if Tug might ever have himself -

"... wondered why his father and mother had kissed for the first time, touched each other, made love, married, taken vacations, cheered for horses, argued, retired, kissed for the thousandth time, ignored each other, spent days with him, lied to each other, stared at their aging nakedness, bet on strangers' horses, slept."

The stuff of life, of living, in other words. Told in long, looping, often doubt-ridden interior monologues, stream-of-consciousness style, the interwoven stories of Deesh and Jan move inexorably toward a heart-rending intersection and shocking conclusion, like a long-shot come-from-behind finish. The writing here flows so naturally, it looks so easy. So you know it's not.

When I first began reading WATCH ME GO, I thought often of another horse-racing novel I read several years back, Jaimy Gordon's LORD OF MISRULE, which won the National Book Award. I thought too of DRIVE, HE SAID, Jeremy Larner's classic basketball novel from decades ago. But in the end, although Wisniewski's novel shows an intimate knowledge of both horse racing and basketball, its message is more about love and human relationships than those things. It is also one hell of a ride. I'll say it again. I LOVED this book, and cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, I gotta call this Wisniewski guy, because ... Well, because I'd just like to talk with him. Bravo, Mark - well done!

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Feb 1, 2017 |
Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski is a highly recommended novel that intertwines the hard facts of a crime novel with literary character studies.

Jan Price, comes to visit Douglas "Deesh" Sharp in prison. Deesh is an African-American who has been charged with the murders of three men. Jan says she can provide proof that will exonerate him of the murder of jockey Tom Corcoran, but first she needs to know that he didn't kill the other two men. At this point Wisniewski alternates chapters between the perspective of the two main characters as they look at their past and the choices they have made that resulted in their meeting.

The first chapter is Deesh's story about riding along with two old basketball buddies, Bark and James, hoping to earn a little cash. When the three are paid a grand to dispose of a sealed barrel that, though it is never said, everyone knew contained a body. The three dumped the barrel in a wooded area and then hit the race track taking a gamble that they can win even more betting on the horses and then they can make a break for it. Things quickly begin to spiral out of control for Deesh.

Jan's chapters recount her dealings with the Corcoran family. Jan and her mother moved from Arkansas to stay with friends Tom and Colleen Corcoran, on their son Tug's horse farm, As Jan hopes to become a jockey like her father, she also starts to realize she has feelings for Tug. There is a lot of information about horse racing and gambling included in Watch Me Go.

Wisniewski skillfully handles the nuances in developing the personalities of each of his characters. Although both characters make bad choices, I think you will come to understand why they made the choices they did and how they were both reacting to the actions of others around them. They were both desperate and afraid. Good people can have bad things happen to them, and tragically it can leave them lost and searching.

I thought the writing was brilliant, especially in how the characters were developed and in the clarity of their separate, distinct voices. I care very little for gambling or horse racing, which are very prevalent, but the information you need can easily be assimilated enough to allow you to appreciate the larger story without trying to bog yourself down in remembering detailed racing facts. Wisniewski also does an admirable job describing the setting.

There were a few minor glitches in Watch Me Go, but, as a whole this is a fine literary suspense novel in contrast to a boiler plate crime novel.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Penguin Group for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This book was very well written, but it took me until about page 200 to really get into the story. The first 200 pages, to me, were a tale of two different situations and people that were bound to link up in the end, but were very different stories about people you really didn't necessarily care about, or care why they linked up. But at some point the tale clicked and when there was finally some drama in the story my brain finally perked up and began paying more attention. The story begins with a short flash-forward of a woman visiting a prisoner telling him she can help him prove his innocence. Then the story goes back to the two main storylines about three African-American men who are trying to scrape by making a living hauling other peoples' junk, with the alternating chapters featuring people who jockey horses and bet on horses. At least the chapters are short, quick reads, and while that is appealing it also means we get very little information about each story in quick chunks that make it more difficult to process what is actually happening. Perhaps I should have concentrated more and read the book in one sitting, but it's not practical to do that and maybe that was my downfall. ( )
  mandersj73 | Apr 27, 2015 |
This was a very quick read for me, I finished reading in an afternoon. The writing style is very easy to understand. The chapters jump back and forth between the two main characters, Jan and Deesh, who both have suffered sadness and loss and continue to do so in this dual character study. Did I care about these two people? Unfortunately, the tale had a languid, sluggish pace that lulled me into a stupor. The ending was too abrupt and only mildly shocking since the reader had been prepared for more disaster. In fact, I had to go back and re-read it again to convince myself that that was all there was. My thanks to the author and Penguin's First to Read program for a complimentary copy. ( )
  musichick52 | Feb 21, 2015 |
Two loosely related stories told by two different characters. One involves three brothers who are asked to get rid of a large barrel that they are sure has a body or something else illegal in it. As the story progresses they get involved in other crimes and their relationship breaks down. The other protagonist is a young lady who was raised in the horse racing industry and has aspirations to be a jockey but is blown off course by a relationship with a young man whose dad is heavy into race betting. This is an interesting story for enthusiasts of horse racing and mysteries. ( )
  muddyboy | Jan 29, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399172122, Hardcover)

“Irresistible." —Salman Rushdie
“A smart, richly observed noir thriller … thoughtful, complex and compassionate.” —Dan Chaon
“Mark Wisniewski is a damn good writer.” —Ben Fountain
Winter’s Bone meets The Wire, Watch Me Go is an edgy, soulful meditation on the meaning of love, the injustices of hate, and the power of hope
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.
Interweaving Deesh’s and Jan’s gripping narratives, Watch Me Go is a wonderfully insightful work that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive for justice. At once compulsively readable, thought-provoking, and complex, it is a suspenseful, compassionate meditation on the power of love and the injustices of hate.  

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:38 -0400)

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