Mock My Words by Chandra Shekhar

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Mock My WordsMock My Words is comprised of three storylines. Each one of them is interconnected with a plot that involves a renowned author by the name of David Tan, who left China to live in the United States. The main storyline not only revolves around David’s struggles and challenges as a new teacher at John Steinbeck University in Northern California, but also portrays the stress and anxiety that David experiences while trying to survive a rough patch in his marriage. The secondary storylines involve David’s wife, Laura, and Melissa, a student at the university.

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David is worried and nervous about whether or not the students in his writing course will accept and respect him. This dilemma is due to the disconnect between his writing and his speaking. Although David writes beautiful prose, he speaks English very poorly, which makes it difficult to communicate with people. Even though he wants to share his love of classical literature with his students, they are ill-mannered and rude towards him. It does not get any easier for him when some of his colleagues rebuff him. In addition to work issues, whenever David is at home, he always feels that he has to tread carefully around his wife’s feelings in order not to upset her and possibly ruin any chances at intimacy.

At the same time that David is trying to adjust to his new job, Laura is dealing with a stressful situation at her workplace, a public relations firm. A major client of the firm suffers a massive data breach, which significantly damages their reputation. With the client facing a potential lawsuit and threatening to pull their account from the PR firm, Laura volunteers to step in and take charge of the situation. This task requires Laura to spend an inordinate amount of time working, which puts further strain on the Tan’s marriage.

Melissa, a Chinese-American student, asks for David’s advice on rewriting a business plan for the development of a device to help elderly people, who struggle with walking. No parties have shown any interest in financing the idea. However, input provided by David on changes to the business plan may help bring the project to fruition. Melissa has never acknowledged David’s important contribution and feels guilty about it. Should Melissa contact David and let him know?

Chandra Shekhar has written a compelling and engaging book that includes bias, marital conflict, digital espionage, friendship, encouragement, guilt, loyalty, heartbreak, perseverance, and resilience. The barriers and frustrations faced by individuals in the United States who do not speak English as their first language and how that can end up affecting their lives in unforeseen ways is an important part of the novel. The dissonance and conflict between David and Laura is told from the viewpoint of both of them, which is an excellent way for readers to understand their individual perspectives. The book also provides a bird’s-eye view of cyber espionage and the subsequent consequences on both companies and employees.