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Man Gone Down Paperback – January 1, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born poor, black and brilliant in a Boston ghetto, the unnamed man of the title is, at 35, crashing at a friend's place in New York , trying to scrape up enough money to keep his family afloat. As he reluctantly returns to the construction jobs that he thought he'd left behind and works to collect on old debts (and defer his own), he narrates his Boston bildung and traces his early years and the history of his relationship with his white Boston Brahmin wife, Claire. His childhood was marked by parental neglect and early experiments with heavy alcohol consumption. A natural writer, he was taken under the wing of a prominent black intellectual during his college years, but didn't follow through as his relationship with Claire and then the demands of married life intensified. Now, as he struggles to support a life he isn't sure he believes in, he is tempted to return to drink, give up on his marriage and abandon his children, although Claire has demonstrated her unwavering support. For all of the introspection and occasional indulgence in self-pity, the narrator retains a note of hard-won optimism, and Thomas resolutely steers him clear of sentimentality. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The brooding narrator in Thomas' stream-of-consciousness first novel recites a mantra, "It is a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment." African American (or, more accurately, "Black Irish Indian"), he was a precocious child. Bused to white schools in Boston, gifted as a poet and a musician, and assured he would transcend his alcoholic parents' troubles, he developed his own drinking habit instead and deep-sixed an academic career. Now about to turn 35, married to a white woman, and a father, he has been dragged off course by a tidal wave of pain and despair and must reconstruct their dismantled Brooklyn life before the summer ends. Battered by bitter memories, and paralyzed by the poison of prejudice, which is tainting his relationships with his loving wife and sons, he works carpentry jobs, goes for long late-night runs, and seeks to exorcise his demons. By evoking the tension, longing, and beauty of the great and grinding city, summoning the mysterious power of the sea, and drawing on Melville and Ellison, Thomas has written a rhapsodic and piercing post-9/11 lament over aggression, greed, and racism, and a ravishing blues for the soul's unending loneliness. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Black Cat; First Edition edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170293
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on June 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
This clearly isn't a book for everyone, but I found it engrossing until the very end. The book is clearly rooted in the search for and struggles with identity. In many respects, it is a contemporary, post-integration era counterpart to Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man". The narrator's mixed race ancestry and largely White environment will make the book accessible to White audiences, but also should create some discomfort. The narrator's upbringing provided certain material and social advantages but also placed him in a marginal place in the world. Still, his main friends are White, as is his wife and he muddles through the obvious prejudice (racial and class-based) from his mother-in-law. The White people in his life are marginal in their own way, but the advantages of who they are carry them on better. Some of the class based issues (e.g., growing up poor in a rich suburb) cut across race, but don't overshadow it. For the narrator having Irish (and Native American) ancestry doesn't change his situation much--what ever value people put on race often fails to advantage people of mixed race backgrounds and, for the narrator, it adds to his confusion about his place in the world. Like most people, the narrator has surmounted significant hurdles such as alcoholism and less than attentive parents. On the other hand, he never fully met what other people saw as his potential, academically or occupationally and he is out of synch with most people his age, even while raising a family. His story reminded me of people who had grown up in strongly integrationist families or who otherwise found themselves outside the mainstream of African-American life.

This is not a book for people seeking simple linear story telling.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By ginilyn on April 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a book that I disliked at the same time that I couldn't put it down. There is brilliant writing here and wonderful insights that stay with the reader long after the book is finished. There is an examination of the African American and mixed race experience that rings true and important. But there is seemingly endless "introspection" fueled by depression and perhaps narcissism that prevented me from being completely engaged. Because all other characters are viewed only through the narrator's egoistic worldview, they never become any thing close to real. We, like the narrator, can only guess at their motives. The most blatant example of this problem is the ending - which is singularly unbelievable and unsatisfying.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By NaughtiLiterati VINE VOICE on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Sometimes it is riveting, sometimes I give it 5 stars because it was just the thing I needed to put me to sleep. But overall, an IMMENSELY satisfying read. You go on a journey with the main character as he tries to figure himself out, care for his family, and figure out where he belongs in the world - and finally be OKAY with it. He's kinda crazy, but very endearing.

There are parts of the book where you wonder what in the HELL he is talking about because of the rambling, but just as you begin to get exasperated, Thomas hits you with a brilliant passage like an espresso shot and you sit up and pay attention again. You get sick of the character but can't put the book down. You want to put the book down due the rambling, but you want to know what happens next to the character - and also know that more pleasure is to be found in the journey! This book is a literary K-hole. Heh heh heh

What works BEST to put it all into perspective is reading the discussion questions at the end of the book (in addition to being well-read), and then it will all come into place. So that is why this book is a winner and I would definitely read it again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By vaio on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is not for everyone. At times, this book seems not to be for anyone. Except maybe the author. Therapy for which the readers pay the patient. I don't know if this is just another car crash from which the reader can't turn away or if Michael Thomas is, in fact, some sort of sleeping genius, but Man Gone Down certainly has a way of keeping the reader reading, in spite of itself.

If you are a patient, compassionate reader, this book might be for you. Your patience will be tested when the narrator goes off into these torturous, self-conscious rants about every little thing. You'll need more than a little compassion to stay on our guy's side as he creates awkward situations out of otherwise routine social encounters and makes others--presumably innocents--suffer under the weight of his weirdness.

Though he is generally well meaning and without identifiable malice, this guy, our guy, is not always easy.

But there are some great interactions between our guy and whoever. The black woman, Judy or Jane?, at the bar. Gavin, Brian, and Shake. Marco and the two summer associates at dinner. Marco and the Blue Bloods on the gold course, etc. These are all great scenes and they help carry the text. Watching our narrator fumble through interactions with other people is ultimately more sustaining than his internal rants about the simplest of things.

But there is something to be gained from even the most tedious portions of Man Gone Down. It's interesting to see how and why a black man who is, in some ways, so overwhelmed by race, ends up marrying a white woman and having to deal with the whiteness, or lack thereof, of his children and his adopted world.
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