Josh's Reviews > Show Up, Look Good

Show Up, Look Good by Mark Wisniewski
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's review
Sep 06, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: read-2011, rumpus-book-club
Read from September 06 to 07, 2011

Show Up, Look Good is a novel about a jilted woman whose move to Manhattan and relationship with an elderly, mute former New York Yankee help her accept her innocence in her mother's death and admit her complicity in an outbreak of disturbing secret crimes.

Show Up, Look Good is narrated by Michelle, a 30something small town girl from Kankakee, IL. After she catches her fiance jerking it to a plastic vagina, she decides that their relationship isn't what she thought it was and leaves for New York City. Upon arriving, she encounters a series of off-beat roommates, sometimes horrible, until she finally settles on her own in Queens.

A lot of things bothered me about this book. It wasn't that Wisniewski tried to write a female lead and didn't accomplish it, which I assumed would be the case going into the novel, but more that over the course of 224 pages, I had to read the thoughts of an annoyingly selfish character. The above quote is from the publisher's website, outlining what the book is generally about. I want to break it down:

1. She was obviously in a bad relationship with her fiancee. She talked too much, he didn't listen, she was selfish, and, I'm assuming, so was he. They were both assholes. Their breakup garners all of a handful of pages throughout the book.

2. She was a baby when her mother dies and even the main character admits that she didn't think about her mother's death often and she certainly didn't have any emotional issues surrounding the circumstances to her mother's death up until the character mentions she realizes she didn't do anything to contribute to her mother's death. It isn't a major plot point.

3. If by "a series of disturbing secret crimes" they mean consensual sex between two parties in someone's apartment until someone is murdered, then yes, there is a series of disturbing secret crimes. Or not. The murder is mentioned on the first page but then isn't mentioned again until the last part of the book, as if the author was trying to tie up loose ends and realized he left out the murder bit. There might be a series of disturbing secret crimes, something that would require more time explaining and building than what Wisniewski has given us.
There are plenty of opportunities for Wisniewski to redeem himself in the novel, but he doesn't quite make it. There's so much lacking from the story that any potential Show Up, Look Good had is almost non-existent. I had hope, which is why I finished, but there just wasn't enough in the end to make it worthwhile.

Michelle is one of the most unlikable protagonists that I've come across. She's hypocritical, annoying, selfish and shallow, and naive, all without any redeeming qualities. I find it very hard to feel sorry for a character, or even a person I know in real life, that puts themselves in undesirable situations and complains about them the whole time. Michelle chooses to leave her fiancee, she chooses her roommates with their annoying quirks, habits, and friends. She makes fun of her MFA roommate and her friends for their creativity and poseur attitudes, but then doesn't think that teaching herself to paint is any different.

Wisniewski writes so much crap from, and about, Michelle that he sacrifices parts of the story that could truly be interesting by focusing more on the bit characters like Etta, Ernest, and Sarah. Instead he leaves us with a very unlikable character and a book that is basically Michelle's internal monologue full of her selfish and hypocritical thoughts.
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