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Man Gone Down

3.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,230 Ratings  ·  242 Reviews
On the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday, the unnamed black narrator of Man Gone Down finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep the kids in school and make a down payment on an apartment for them in which to live. As we slip between his ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published December 7th 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Aug 23, 2009 KFed rated it it was ok
I feel guilty for not being in love with this.

Because I should be, right? It's about an educated black writer who somehow went from being the newest test case in Boston's busing system to being a scholarship student at Harvard, and from there to being a drop-out (or kicked-out, as it were) that lands himself at a smaller college in New York, becomes a writer, marries a white woman and fathers three mixed-race children, fails at becoming a writer and suffers the financial/familial penalties ther
Jul 10, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
There are maybe ten novels whose first reading gave me enough of a kick in the gut that I will always remember it, and this is one of them. I felt more affinity for the narrator than for any character I can recall in recent literature -- despite the fact that he is black and of the city and I'm a white kid from the sticks and the novel is very much about race; but it's more fundamentally a novel about being a husband and father and, well, a man, with all the baggage that carries, and feeling con ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Mehrsa rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book after hearing that he upset all of the other authors and won the Dublin prize for literature. Not just that, but the topic (a Black man in the inner city searches his soul) was incredibly appealing to me. However, the book was a huge disappointment or maybe it shows a lot of promise and it's a wonderful first novel for an up and coming author.

I thought it was very self-indulgent and circular. Nothing happens, which is fine if there is some internal develop
Jan 09, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Okay, after reading some of the other reviews of this book i must throw down. The narrator got whipped and beaten by his drunk mother, and abandoned by his father, and people beat the crap out of him at school. regularly. and as an adult, he still has physical problems from these abuses. And his best friend got beaten up even worse than him. By his fuck-ass father. So all you people who find this novel tediously dirge-like, or overly grim, or too introverted-stream-of-consciousness, or too locke ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Ginger rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this book about an adjunct instructor-turned- construction worker whose interracial marriage is falling apart, but the mopey narrator kept making such stupid decisions that I quickly lost sympathy for him.
Feb 14, 2012 Garry rated it did not like it
Man Gone Down has received a lot of favorable reviews, and won the IMPAC Award in 2009, and I can see some hints of the reasons why. The final chapter is achingly beautiful, as is a passage reminiscing on September '11. Despite some very good writing, the overall package was not to my liking.

The book's narrator is a black man, and he provides us with an in-depth view into his life during a week in which he is having problems with his wife, and in coming up with the money to pay for his kids' sch
Jenny McPhee
Apr 24, 2010 Jenny McPhee rated it it was amazing
I have never read anything like this novel. It has the meandering stream-of-consciousness and meticulous attention to detail of Virginia Woolf. It has the male obsessiveness with with masculinity and how it functions in time and place of James Joyce. It explores race with the rigour and nuance of a 21st century Ralph Ellison. And it describes the conundrums of class and society's basic unfairness with the storytelling skills of Dickens. And to add the cherry, Thomas is as in love with T.S. Eliot ...more
Dec 15, 2007 Jane rated it liked it
A 400+ page story that is mostly interior monologue -- very difficult to read. The repeating mantra about the difficulties this young man faced growing up and the unmet high expectations becomes tiresome.

Yet and still, there is something attractive about this book. The writing style is accessible and I really felt the brooklyn neighborhood and NY life Thomas was describing. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is the book MGD is most often compared to and I can see that. Invisible Man was also a very d
Apr 28, 2009 Jackmccullough rated it did not like it
I read this book for my book group, and it was a book that I picked and was very interested in reading.

Alas, that was before I got started. I really had to force myself to slog through this morose, boring book about a morose, boring guy. It's not that I don't get where the guy came from, because he clearly comes by his challenges honestly. Still, there isn't nearly enough here to sustain my interest.

I'll be interested in hearing what my fellow book group members thought, but I'm thinking that I
Jul 08, 2011 Kat rated it really liked it
An extraordinary book, intelligent and thought provoking. The prose is dense and powerful but seldom self-conscious. It's also an important book--there's already criticism about it out there. Caveat: It is not profitable to read this book in snatches. It demands,but also rewards, more time, closer attention.

"It's a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment," Michael Thomas's unnamed narrator muses more than once. Part Irish, part Indian, part black,he has been encouraged from child
Leora Bersohn
Jan 13, 2011 Leora Bersohn rated it did not like it
My Library Journal review:

An impoverished writer wanders Brooklyn in search of the money that will reunite him with his family. Having survived horrific abuse as a child and alcoholism as an adult, the unnamed protagonist continues to suffer. Part Native American, part African American, he is obsessed with his wife's whiteness, his children's ambiguous ethnic identities, and the perceived slights of his neighbors. A father of three, he refuses to take a steady job, finish his doctoral dissertati
Jun 15, 2013 Eric rated it did not like it
I’m disappointed. I really thought I was going to get into this book. I was hoping for young James Baldwin, or Ellison during his brief moment when he had something to say about the minefields and bottomless tar pits that litter the landscape of Black males even for those who “do the right thing”.

O.K. let me temper my words with the fact that he was brutally raped as a kid, which I wish he would have talked about at the beginning of the book. But honestly this dude comes off as a typical Black n
Feb 23, 2011 William rated it liked it
Sometimes I hate this star system of rating books. This book is so intelligent, erudite, philosophical and at times dramatic that I could see myself giving it 5 stars. So why only 3? I just about dsiliked everything about the protagonist. The "man gone down" of the title. A tall and physically imposing Black man, in a very tenous marraige with a White woman and their 3 children, he seems to think of himself as some latter day Walter Mitty. Everything about him is interior dialouge and hopeless d ...more
Aug 01, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york, kindle
Michael Thomas's novel of four crucial days in the life of an intellectually brilliant black man temporarily separated from his white wife and three kids as he struggles to pull enough money together to maintain the yuppie Brooklyn life they'd established seamlessly weaves this quest with his stream-of-consciousness thoughts about the many roles he must play, his life as a recovering addict, T.S. Eliot, and his difficult childhood. It's poetic, yet grounded in well-observed characterization and ...more
Sep 26, 2011 Nina rated it it was ok
Recommended to Nina by: Greenlight bookstore
This is a portrait of a damaged man whose emotional problems often manifest themselves as a fixation on race. I think he makes some interesting observations about the nature of racism in a so-called progressive environment, and his descriptions of living life as a social experiment I thought really rang true. I was a bit disturbed by his obsession with his wife's whiteness and his kids' part-whiteness. He should have probably confronted those issues before he married her and started a family. My ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Sharon rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read this year. I realized I don't read African American authors and really wanted to...but not a chick lit one like Dickey or Tyree. I was pulled in immediately when I found this book at BN.

The protagonist is a black man, married to a white woman and dad to two kids. He's been to Harvard, has tried to be an author, and is currently unemployed though he does masterful construction work. Throughout the book he wrestles with the idea of leaving his family. He feels stre
Oct 11, 2008 Ramón rated it it was amazing
This book was an epic experience for me. It was well-paced, the imagery rich, the descriptions of Brooklyn living and breathing. The ending was a bit abrupt, but it fit the uneven nature of the main character.

However, the real reason I give this book five stars is because it was an intensely personal experience. The themes of race and displacement are explored more honestly than anything I've ever read.

In particular, I think this book is a harbinger of the genre to come: books that explore the
Jul 28, 2007 Sarae rated it liked it
Recommends it for: folks interested in writing, and in race and identity
This book had me think about how race and class impact identity and how we see the world. Are these opportunities open or closed to me or is it my perception based on how I think I am perceived due to aspects of my identity? The main character is a black man who grew up working class, married to a white woman who grew up wealthy. The book covers a few days in his life in New York City as he is broke and trying to get things together for his family. It is a deeply personal look inside what this p ...more
Dec 11, 2009 Christina rated it liked it
"Man Gone Down" is an soulfully written novel about an anonymous black man who can't afford to take care of his interracial family. As eloquent as this story is, and as much as I wanted to like it, I found myself bored. Perhaps the most touching aspect of the book is how he describes his two sons, one tan with blonde hair and blue eyes, the other toffee colored and more noticably black. However, for most of the book the narrator rambles on in a self effacing fashion that screams "LOSER" from eve ...more
Martin Rowe
Mar 23, 2014 Martin Rowe rated it really liked it
I was reminded of this book by reading Literary Brooklyn, which mentions Michael Thomas among a group of new Brooklyn-based authors. I live in the neighborhood Thomas writes about and my wife had really enjoyed the book, and so I dived in during a bronchitic weekend. I found Man Gone Down a fascinating and immerse experience. I think it's best understood as homage partly to Joyce (the self-conscious literary young man trying to come to terms with the tortured history of his people; the misfit ob ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Ben rated it liked it
Complex, challenging, compelling, and imperfect.

Our un-named narrator is given a clear mission -- raise a substantial amount of cash in 4 days in order to get his family life back on track. We follow him almost in real time around NYC, through those four days and nights in which he doesn't sleep or really stop moving at all, like a clinically depressed shark. And the book is at its best when he is on the move, working and pursuing his goal. Other times, his attention wanders and he seems to nea
Oct 29, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
Certainly not a comfortable book to read but one where I think the negative comments are as much a testament as the positive ones. I'm not sure I could read it again because the author too often brings us face smashed to the window of our less noble and unhappy impulses, thoughts and feelings but it is a book that will be living in my head for a long time.
Aug 23, 2008 Josh rated it liked it
What if Ralph Ellison was a whiny asshole?
Sean Hoskin
Dec 01, 2009 Sean Hoskin rated it it was amazing
A poetic, blues-filled jaunt through a twilight of one man's experience as time and memory, by turns, foreshadow the future, haunt the present and rewound the past. Racial identity sluices through in rivulets and yet is not the sole wind that traces through its waters. Allegorical, alliterative and dream-laden, the motifs of promise, potential, hope and destiny unrealized coalesce into a meditation on the particulars of a single individual's life-course but illustrate by the transposition of the ...more
Nov 30, 2008 Molly rated it liked it
The author does an incredible job of portraying the anxiety felt by a young black father of three, a writer, out of work, who feels ultimately accountable to his white wife and the world she has always lived in that he pretends to be a part of. It bluntly dispells any notion that, even in New York, even with three children by a white woman he loves, this man can for a moment walk down the street without being acutely aware of his race and others' reaction to it. As the narrator, every encounter ...more
Ben Dutton
Feb 06, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it really liked it
Man Gone Down, Michael Thomas’s debut novel, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2009, beating off works such as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It’s story is simple: an unnamed black narrator has four days to come up with the money to pay for his kids to go to school and for the apartment for he and his family to live in; only he is broke. Some would make this story into a manic quest, full of harebrained schemes to raise th ...more
Oct 16, 2008 HK rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2011 Matthew rated it it was amazing
This was one of the strongest, most gut-wrenching reads that I have ever read. The way that Thomas sucks you in and makes you care (almost too much) for his unnamed narrator is stunning, really. There were times that I couldn't breathe I was so caught up in the book -- most notably when he buys the beer and goes down to the river. I don't think I ever have not wanted someone to have a drink as much as I did then.

Thomas also gives us an unflinching look in post-9/11, post-modern, broke-ass Americ
Diann Blakely
Morgan Entrekin, head of Grove-Atlantic Press, made a fresh name for himself in a *New Yorker* “Talk of the Town” piece not long ago when he freely admitted to not reading all of the books he publishes. Yet the Nashville native continues to prove that he’s no chopped (fried chicken) liver with *Man Gone Down* by Michael Thomas. Thomas’s novel, which received front-page coverage in the New York Times Book Review, disappeared from view, and then a more-than-deservedly renewed life via Ireland’s ve ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Abigail rated it liked it
I admittedly took several breaks before finishing this book. Thomas' prose is wordy and self-indulgent and often meaningless stream-of-consciousness blather. I was completely prepared to dismiss the novel completely, but then I dug in and was rewarded in a way I hadn't anticipated. The narrator is often contemptible and I found it difficult to empathize with a lot of the existential dilemmas he found himself struggling with, but at his heart is not a bad person. It is when Thomas allows the narr ...more
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“I wonder if this is what it feels like, falling out of love: feeling yourself fading out of existence - the gray sky, the coffee shop limbo - everything a way station of sorts. Making promises you know you can't keep. Making promises - period. People in love shouldn't have to vow or demand, petition or exhort. Nothing. Not even question. No collisions with your surroundings or yourself - you move gently, unknowing, in time.” 9 likes
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