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The Tell: A Novel
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The Tell: A Novel

2.5 4
by Hester Kaplan

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An elegant and haunting novel of love and family, The Tell demands that we reconsider our notions of marriage—duty, compromise, betrayal, and the choice to stand by or leave the ones we love.

Mira and Owen's marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty


An elegant and haunting novel of love and family, The Tell demands that we reconsider our notions of marriage—duty, compromise, betrayal, and the choice to stand by or leave the ones we love.

Mira and Owen's marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty of money and plenty of time to kill, Wilton is charming but ruthless as he inserts himself into the couple's life in a quest for distraction, friendship—and most urgently—a connection with Anya, the daughter he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira begins to accompany Wilton to a casino and is drawn to the slot machines. Escapism soon turns to full-on addiction and a growing tangle of lies and shame that threatens her fraying marriage and home. Betrayed and confused, Owen turns to the mysterious Anya, who is testing her own ability to trust her father after many years apart.

The Tell is a finely-wrought novel about risk: of dependence, of responsibility, of addiction, of trust, of violence. Told with equal parts suspense, sympathy, and psychological complexity, it shows us the intimate and shifting ways in which we reveal ourselves before we act, and what we assume but don’t know about those closest to us.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mira and Owen’s marriage begins to stutter as they struggle with money problems when Wilton Deere, a washed-up television star, moves in next door and begins to charm the couple with stories of his estranged daughter and his dramatic past. Mira could sell inherited valuables, but is reluctant to do so, and as Wilton gradually befriends the couple, his relations with Mira take a darker turn: he introduces her to the world of gambling and she becomes addicted. Though Owen vows to leave her if she doesn’t stop, she ignores his threats. He takes his revenge by poisoning Wilton’s attempts to restore his relationship with his daughter, Anya, and pressuring Wilton to kill himself. When Wilton subsequently disappears, Owen, Mira, and Anya must confront their difficult truths and learn to trust each other again. Kaplan (Kinship Theory) suffuses her latest with a sense of its own importance; everything takes on an extremely dramatic tone, even if the events themselves are minor, which makes it difficult to take big problems seriously. Additionally, the characters are not particularly sympathetic and some of their decisions make little sense. Readers may be drawn in by the exploration of addiction and loneliness, but will be disappointed. Agent: Jennifer Carlson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Jan.)
“Kaplan writes with remarkable acuity about the psychological challenges faced by each of her vulnerable characters. . . . Highly recommended for readers who enjoy the psychologically complex work of Annie Proulx, or Stewart O’Nan.”
The Providence Phoenix
The Tell is filled with fascinating subplots and well-drawn supporting roles. . . . An exceptionally good read.”
Ann Hood
“Hester Kaplan is a master of her craft, and in The Tell she uses her prodigious talent to put a marriage under her microscope. Every sentence of this book is breathtaking.”
Leah Hager Cohen
“Hester Kaplan brings such fresh language and uncanny insight to whatever her keen eye lands upon, it’s as if she creates it anew. Everything, everyone, every inflection in The Tell is charged with precision, feeling, and consequence.”
Antonya Nelson
The Tell is an homage to The Great Gatsby: The competing forces of true love and false idols are played out beautifully in the course of a roiling relationship with a larger-than-life neighbor. This is a wonderful book.”
Caroline Leavitt
“Gorgeous and haunting, Kaplan’s riveting new novel about what we fight to hide, or ache to reveal about ourselves, grabs you by the throat and builds to a crescendo that’s pure Greek tragedy. It’s hard not to use the word genius.”
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
The Tell is an engrossing novel, at once richly observed and tautly plotted. Wilton Deere is one of the most riveting and unsettling characters I’ve encountered in a long time. I read this hungrily, and with great pleasure.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Kaplan’s characters are impeccably crafted.”
The Providence Journal
“A wonderfully written, perceptive, and engaging novel. . . . Kaplan has created a story inhabited with impeccable and image-sharpened tremors, so acutely attuned to insights, epiphanies, betrayals and threats that I couldn’t put it down.”
Kirkus Reviews
A stranger comes to town, upsetting the heretofore placid lives of a couple. Providence, R.I., is the setting for what at first blush appears to be a standard tale of two yuppies struggling to maintain their bourgeois bonhomie against an increasingly unforgiving urban landscape. Owen, 40, and his wife of six years, Mira, live in the house where she grew up, which became hers when her parents were killed in a car accident. Mira runs a private art school which is perennially short of cash. Owen teaches in a doomed public school and tries to instill hope in his students. When Wilton, a former sitcom star, moves into the adjacent house, his first act is to hijack Owen's and Mira's daily routine. Soon, contributing gourmet staples bought with his Hollywood wealth, he's sharing most meals with the couple. He's moved from LA to Providence hoping to bond with his long-estranged daughter, Anya. All three principals harbor a secret shame. Thanks to Owen's cowardice, his girlfriend was killed in a restaurant shooting. Mira's father was having an affair with her mother's best friend. Wilton came close to crashing his car with toddler Anya in it. Wilton's advent sparks a strange triangulation, sowing distrust between Mira and Owen as to whose friend he really is. Mira and Wilton start spending evenings at the casino. Wilton and Owen trade confidences. Minor characters play out the themes of disconnection and attachment, New England style, including Owen's father, a recluse who lives on a pond with several cats until he's rescued by a condo-dwelling matriarch. Mira's gambling, predictably, becomes an addiction. As Anya circumspectly approaches Wilton, discord between Mira and Owen escalates until, too abruptly, Owen is contemplating violent solutions to his soured relationships. Although the prose is competent enough, it often serves more as atmospheric filler than as a vehicle for elucidating the characters' myriad dilemmas. The action, instead of building to a satisfying conclusion, merely unravels. An initially intriguing but ultimately disappointing effort.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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Meet the Author

Hester Kaplan is the author of The Edge of Marriage, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Kinship Theory, a novel. Her short stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories series. She teaches in Lesley University's MFA Program in Creative Writing and lives in Rhode Island.

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The Tell: A Novel 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A waste of my time. The story lime had no real direction. Difficult to follow at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adored this book. It was witty, charming, and haunting. Completely stunning.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A book that centers around a couple living in a very old home, the childhood home of the wife in the couple and after a tragedy in her family, she never left the home in fear of losing a connection to her family.  Her husband moves in and is marking time next to his wife's things.  A change in neighbors sparks the beginning of the book and a rollercoaster that will forever change this couple.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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