Review: The Tell by Hester Kaplan

Posted January 21, 2013 by in Book Reviews / 7 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Tell by Hester KaplanThe Tell by Hester Kaplan
Published by Harper Perennial on January 8, 2013
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

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Trouble is simmering just below the surface of Mira and Owen's marriage when Wilton Deere, an aging, once-famous TV actor, moves in next door. Charming but ruthless, Wilton inserts himself into the couple's life, looking for friendship and--most urgently--a way to reconnect with his daughter, Anya, whom he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira distracts herself with trips to a local casino, accompanied by Wilton. As her escapism leads to addiction and Mira and Owen's marriage reaches its breaking point, Wilton suddenly disappears. To set things right, husband and wife must weather a storm of their own making and confront the new reality of their relationship.

(from the back cover)

Mira and Owen live in Providence, RI, where Mira owns and runs a community art center and Owen is a middle school (high school?) teacher. They’re both doing what they love and they both feel like what they do makes a difference in their community. But neither one of them is entirely happy, and their marriage isn’t as wonderful as it seems. Both of them are keeping things to themselves that periodically put a strain on their relationship. When Wilton moves in next door, their routine life together gets upended and falls apart rather easily.

The book is written in a third-person limited voice that follows Owen, which means readers only gets to see his side of things. We know that he fell for Mira and married her because he was looking for a savior (does that ever end well?). What readers find out about the other characters all needs to come through conversations Owen has with other people. That’s where Wilton comes in. Wilton befriends Mira and Owen and gets them to tell him the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other…and then betrays their trust by telling each of them the other’s secrets. I still haven’t decided if Wilton thought he was doing a good thing, or if he was acting out of unhappiness and selfishness. Whatever the case, he really screws things up. Of course, the book raises the question of whether or not people in a relationship should keep some things to themselves or tell each other everything.

For those of you who have read the book, did anyone else see Wilton as a Christ-figure? I don’t want to go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the book for others who might read it, but if you’ve already read The Tell, let me know what you think about that. It seems pretty obvious to me, in a lot of ways.

I didn’t hate The Tell, but I didn’t love it, either. It was…okay. The story itself is good; I can see most of it happening to real people (troubled marriage, addiction, some form of redemption). It is the writing style that I’m not too fond of–the writing is a bit too…flowery? fluffy? loose?…for me. Similes abound. In almost every description, things are “like” other things. I feel like Kaplan took the show don’t tell writing rule to the extreme. Some readers may like this style, but it felt forced to me. There is a fine line between naturally beautiful writing and over-the-top writing, and Kaplan crossed that line (for me, anyway). Writing can be tighter and still be gorgeous. And I think maybe it’s that I feel the narrating voice doesn’t go well with the subject matter. The foreshadowing was pretty obvious, too, which is another thing that bothers me when I’m reading. In all honesty, I’m not sure that the foreshadowing in The Tell could have been written less obviously–I don’t know how I would have done it differently–but that doesn’t change the fact that it affected the tension I think I was meant to feel (but didn’t). I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in a profound way, either. Again, the storyline and the ideas in the book have a lot of potential, but I just didn’t feel the book like I think I was meant to. The writing style got in the way of that for me.

HOWEVER, the beauty of books is that what I don’t necessarily enjoy, other readers will, and I think that many readers will enjoy this book–it just isn’t written in a style that I personally dig.

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  • Interesting. This is one that I had made a note of, but was on the fence about, so it’s good to start seeing some thoughts on it.

  • I’ll probably steer clear of this one. Over-foreshadowing drives me nuts!

  • Yeah, I also think I’m going to skip this one. I think that Wilton befriending them and then giving away all their secrets seems . . . off. Especially if you’re saying he’s a little Christ-like. So is he giving away the secrets for the betterment of the marriage? Sacrificing himself for the great good? I dunno, doesn’t seem like my kind of book.

    • I really think he gives them away out of selfishness. He isn’t Christ-like in every aspect. But he does sacrifice himself in another way, and he gives them lots of wine, and Mira is kind of his disciple/worshiper, and some other things.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour!

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