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Mark Wisniewski brings us something that’s in short supply these days–a novel full of humor. And he brings it to us with one of the all-time great opening sentences:

“I know of a secret murder, and I’ve loved a speechless man, and sometimes I’d like to tell someone how death and love have changed my live.”

It does get funnier, trust me. But funny as it often is, I wouldn’t call Show Up, Look Good a comic novel. Too much pain here for that. But the age-old story of midwest small-towner comes to NYC looking to remake herself takes on a different twist when the midwesterner is not a dewy-eyed 18-year-old, but a thirty-something trying to redo her life after a particularly hurtful divorce.

Michelle’s main virtues are her ability to find the false and the pretense in situations and people–including herself–and to comment thereon with a wit and a chuckle that takes her on to the next gig, apartment, roommate, et al determined to outlast and to conquer. It’s her verve and her wit that keep us turning pages every bit as much as the plot. By the end, it seems to me that she’s overmatched when it comes to combating Manhattan. You may not agree, though, for there’s a delicious ambiguity in the ending that, hearkening back to that opening, keeps you guessing even after the last word. I like that. Wouldn’t anyone?

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