Review: The Tell by Hester Kaplan

January 28, 2013 General Fiction, Harper Perennial, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review 1

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (January 8, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062184024
  • Source: Publisher
Mira and Owen live in Providence, Rhode Island, in Mira’s family home. Surrounded by her past, unable to get rid of any remnants of her deceased parents, causes a strain on her relationship with Owen. While on the surface they may appear wealthy they are, in fact, struggling financially. Enter the wealthy, debonair Wilton Deere, an former popular television actor. He’s purchased the home next door to Mira and Wilton in the hopes that his estranged daughter Anya, attending school in the area, will move in with him.

Wilton still lives in the limelight of his acting career. He has no real family, no close confidant to rely upon. What he does have is money and a great deal of it. Soon after meeting Mira & Owen he begins showering them with luxurious gifts of wine and food, new packages showing up on his doorstep each day. Owen isn’t ignorant and sees that Wilton is using his wealth to win them over. On the other hand, Mira is reluctant, yet unable, to turn down the money Wilton provides to restore her failing art gallery. She begins to feel indebted to him, spending more time with him than Owen. With reason, Owen is suspicious. His marriage to Mira, already quite vulnerable, weakens as she begins to lie to him about her actions and whereabouts. Owen eventually learns that it’s not an affair he should worry about, but a cruel relationship built on addiction and co-dependence. The money Wilton showers upon Mira is an attempt to win her over as he has been unable to do with his own daughter. He’s not interested in Mira romantically but a surrogate for the daughter he pushed away all those years ago.

The characters Kaplan creates in The Tell each have a resounding trauma in their past that prevents them from having a stable relationship. For Mira, it is the guilt that she somehow caused the death of her parents; Owen feels inadequate after not doing more to save the life of his then-girl friend from a gun-wielding mugger; Wilton is unable to forgive himself for the suicide attempt that nearly ended the life of not only himself, but his young daughter as well. Through this jumbled, damaged mess together and you get the dysfunctional relationship shared by these three individuals. Each of them were near the brink of eruption but the relationship that commenced upon Wilton’s arrival turned up the intensity and truly pushed each of the characters over the edge. Yet what was truly remarkable was how all of this was so expertly portrayed, only through the eyes of Owen himself.

As I was reading, I nearly forgot that my view of what transpired was limited to what Owen witnessed or experienced himself. I was immediately transfixed by the dynamic of this incredibly incredibly caustic relationship that followed. After I read the last several pages, I couldn’t help but wonder just how jaded Owen’s recollections were, if at all. Understandably, his feelings about Wilton and Mira’s friendship were strong, almost frightening at times. While I found this book to be incredibly absorbing, I feel readers might have appreciated a glimpse of what was going on from the perspective of the other two characters as well. I felt a great deal of sympathy for what Owen was experiencing, yet felt nothing but anger and bitterness toward Mira and Wilton. Would my feelings changed had I been able to see what transpired through their eyes?

How the triangle of a relationship eventually unravels is a bit disappointing, somewhat rushed, in my opinion. It is almost as though two big action scenes were developed but not much in between. That said, the culmination of all of the other redeeming qualities of this novel, including the dynamic characters, the gorgeous writing and stunning New England setting make up for what is lacking. Ultimately, The Tell is a tremendously well-written examination of marriage, of love, of family, and the dynamics of trust and forgiveness. Recommended.

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