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The Tell: A Novel Paperback – January 8, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kaplan, who won the Flannery O’Connor Award for her collection, The Edge of Marriage (1999), again tackles the complexities of an imperfect marriage and the ways in which a dysfunctional family tries to heal itself. Owen and Mira are struggling. The art school Mira runs is dangerously underfunded, and the elementary school at which Owen teaches is due to close at year’s end. Then their home life changes dramatically when Wilton, an aging ex-TV actor, buys the house next door. Wilton lost contact with his daughter years ago and is trying desperately to reestablish their relationship. As that process stalls, Mira becomes a substitute daughter for Wilton, and their frequent visits to a local casino soon create a strain on Owen and Mira’s marriage. Kaplan writes with remarkable acuity about the psychological challenges faced by each of her vulnerable characters, drawing the reader into their struggles to deal with their past mistakes and their attempts to forge a more stable future. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy the psychologically complex work of Annie Proulx, or Stewart O’Nan. --Deborah Donovan


“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.” (Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle)

“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.” (Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others)

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.” (Antonya Nelson, author of Bound)

“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.” (Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You)

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.” (Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles)

“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.” (Booklist)

“Kaplan’s characters are impeccably crafted.” (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The Tell is filled with fascinating subplots and well-drawn supporting roles. . . . An exceptionally good read.” (The Providence Phoenix)

“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.” (The Providence Journal)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062184024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062184023
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,770,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hester Kaplan is the daughter of two writers. She vowed she would never be a writer herself.
Four books later . . .
Hester writes, publishes, edits, and teaches. She is hard at work on a new project--three novellas about the end of the world. She loves to visit book groups, so ask her to visit yours!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Although I don't fall in love with the protagonists Kaplan features in her novel, I am so in thrall to her prose that I'm willing to take this journey into the interior of a marriage in Providence, Rhode Island, to examine the lives of Mira and Owen as they meet their new neighbor, former television actor, Wilton Deere, whose image is slightly tarnished by time and the memories of fickle audiences. Ever ready to charm and seduce, Wilton is an aging Pied Piper with sparkling eyes, a charmer who instinctively knows how to work an audience. Ensconced in his new Victorian home next door, Wilton is anticipating a reconnection with his long-estranged daughter, Anya, anxious to reclaim the role of father, one he carelessly discarded in the pursuit of fame and fortune. He cannot resist seducing Owen and Mira, enchanted by the warm glow of their togetherness, insinuating himself into their lives with generous gifts, praise and enthusiasm for the interests of each.

Kaplan's description of a marriage on the cusp of crisis- buried emotional secrets too difficult to share, a vague discontent as the years creep by- is the perfect foil for such as Wilton, a new stage on which to practice his magic. Slowly, with insidious good will and charming manners, Wilton becomes part of the fabric of Mira and Owen's marriage, learning their secrets, two becoming three, Anya reluctantly joining Wilton and his new friends as she studies the man who is her father. Does she want him? Can she forgive him? Wilton holds center stage, as Mira drifts farther from her husband, lies tumbling easily from her lips, Owen sensing the changes in his marriage, but impotent to stop them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By DW Erickson on February 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
What a pleasure to read Kaplan's The Tell; what a bittersweet note when I came to that last page, and knew that my nights with Owen and Mira, Wilton, Edward and Anya, would come to an end. I won't go into the details of the plot, as several reviews have done so already. Rather, I'll simply say that this is a book in which the characters are people you come to know and love, through all their faults and triumphs, and that they stay with you well beyond the final page. They are dynamic, and dynamically written, with prose that is not superfluously gorgeous, but gorgeous in the way wrought iron can be gorgeous - rendered steel, a poetic flair, but a structure nonetheless; a way for the narrative to breathe life into these people, these places, and the situations they find themselves in. I would say it's a love story, but that sounds trite: it is about all the facets of love and relationships, how if we turn them in the light, they change.

I highly recommend The Tell to anyone who wants that feeling of getting "lost" in a good story, and to anyone who appreciates truly wonderful writing.

(The P.S. section in the back of my version is really interesting, too - offering a little background about the writing of the novel, Kaplan's impetus, as well as some of her insights.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad VINE VOICE on January 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
Owen and Mira have only been married for a few years, and are still trying to find the rhythm of daily married life. But any semblance of normality is disrupted when Wilton, an aging television actor, moves in next door. Mira immediately takes a shine to Wilton, spending lots of time with him, and accompanying them to a nearby casino. Wilton is trying to reunite with his adult daughter, and tries to enlist Owen's help, which only drives Owen and Mira further apart.

I am really torn about this book. On the one hand, the book is full of some really memorable and well developed characters. I most found myself drawn to Owen as a character. I felt I could see his point of view. I felt like I did not trust Wilton, and I am still not convinced his motives were completely pure. It seems to me that Wilton was using Mira as a substitute for his daughter. I think Wilton also sees some of his own flaws in Owen, and in turn tries to punish Owen.

I thought the writing was really lovely in this book, but I struggled, somewhat, with staying engaged in the storyline. I felt the story lagging in a few places, particularly in the beginning. I felt like there was not enough explanation regarding the relationship between Mira and Wilton, and I have to admit, I was a little confused as to why it was not discussed more. Still, I did really enjoy the book, and I think a lot of fans of modern literary novels will enjoy it as well.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn K on March 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
Sometimes the way a writer describes something is so perfect, so right, that it inspires an almost physical response. Something you've seen a million times but never really thought about is suddenly right there, familiar yet unfamiliar, recognized again as if for the first time. As someone who has lived in and around Rhode Island for most of my life, that's how I felt about Hester Kaplan's Providence in "The Tell"--so many familiar landmarks, described in a unique and arresting way.

The story takes on the classic trope of the stranger who comes to town and troubles a happy marriage, but not in the obvious or expected way. Mira and Owen find themselves closing off from each other as they befriend new neighbor Wilton Deere, a faded TV sitcom star. What blooms in Wilton's wake is not sexual infidelity but a wearing away of emotional fidelity, of the couple's ability to trust each other with the best and worst of themselves. Kaplan's characters, while fictional, have the heft and depth of reality, and the story has a quiet surface that opens out into dark and unexpected currents.
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