Verdict: MOCK MY WORDS is ambitious, sometimes stumbling in its message and story because it aims to do so much. But the effort is admirable, and there's a lot to enjoy in its well-developed characters and intersecting plotlines.
Chinese born David Tan is a new English professor at John Steinbeck University. An established novelist famed for his beautiful prose, he finds speaking English difficult, setting the stage for a heartfelt story about communication and the lack thereof.
Three stories intertwine in Chandra Shakar’s MOCK MY WORDS. As David Tan struggles to engage with his students, he also finds himself unable to connect with his wife, Laura. Laura, in turn, is tasked with the impossible feat of saving a cloud storage company’s reputation after a total data leak. A third character, Melissa, can’t seem to find the words to sell her product, a mobility assistance device for people who struggle to walk, nor can she thank David for his help on her proposal.
Each character shoulders a different communication problem, whether it’s a failure to communicate effectively, an unwillingness to say the hard things, or a struggle to find the right words for empathy. By tying them all together, Shakar’s story is not just one about individual people, but about connection and relationships in a broader sense.
David, Melissa, and Laura all have uniquely fascinating stories, but the problem with combining all three is that some inevitably feel less interesting. David’s struggle, combined with his timid personality, is less interesting to read about than Laura’s fast-paced effort to save her job, which involves conspiracy and corporate sabotage. Likewise, Melissa is only a light side-story, meaning she feels less developed in comparison to the other two main characters, and the neat and tidy bow the resolution puts on her and David feels convenient rather than earned.
That said, the novel wouldn’t be better for splitting the three stories up. The way they’re interwoven and the growth each character undergoes because of their relationships to each other is far more interesting than if none of them interacted, and you get to see their strengths and their weaknesses because of it.
MOCK MY WORDS is ambitious, sometimes stumbling in its message and story because it aims to do so much. But the effort is admirable, and there’s a lot to enjoy in its well-developed characters and intersecting plotlines. Even where it fails, it does so by making a point—it’s a shame that some of the luster is lost when you compare each character’s journey, but it’s worth a look nonetheless.
~Melissa Brinks for IndieReader