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The Tell

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  175 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Harper Perennial (first published December 19th 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,068)
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Karen Chilton
May 30, 2013 Karen Chilton rated it it was amazing
I hate to seem hyperbolic, but Hester Kaplan's The Tell is just about the best character-driven novel I've read in ages. The settings and those populating them are perfectly-described, and there were too many moments where I thought, "Damn, I wish I'd written that sentence!" Kaplan has mastered walking the tightrope between prose and poetry. She renders images and moments in time with perfect turns of phrase, and her writing is somehow spare and lush all at once. In the interest of full disclosu ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
I'm not usually a book-marker-upper, but I can't tell you how often I wanted to underline passages and write 'yes!' while reading this. Anyone who writes fiction can learn a lot about place and scene setting from this novel.
missy jean
Jan 29, 2013 missy jean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
In an interview at the back of this book, Hester Kaplan mentions that she studied anthropology in college--and it shows in all her work, because she is a literary anthropologist of moments and relationships, a lyrical anthropologist who studies the things we are only courageous enough to say to strangers and the things we are only cruel enough to say to those we love.

When she wrote The Tell she must have bugged all of our kitchens and bedrooms; she must have sat in our corners jotting down note
Bookkaholic Magazine
(See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) It’s said that two of the most basic plots in literature start with the hero setting off on a journey, or a stranger coming to town. Kaplan blends these two themes in an intriguing way: a familiar stranger moves in next door and throws a marriage into crisis, sending the central couple on a journey to discover what really matters to them and whether their relationship can withstand the triple blow of addiction, jealousy, and suspicion.
May 12, 2013 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-won
I'm excited to be a Good Reads winner. I can't wait to read the book and will give my review when it's done :)It was an interesting read. It is amazing how one person, Wilton, can enter a couple's life and create havoc. It is interesting how they all intertwine and the imprint that one person can leave.
Jan 16, 2013 Serena rated it liked it
The Tell by Hester Kaplan unfolds like a stop-motion movie, one frame at a time, and in that movie there are flashes of the past. Owen Brewer’s attention is easily swayed from one subject and one moment to another, breathing in both the past and present of his life, while at the same time observing the behaviors and ticks of others. His marriage to Mira Thrasher is modern and telling, especially in how they introduce themselves to the new neighbor and former actor Wilton Deere. Their marriage do ...more
Drennan Spitzer
Feb 04, 2013 Drennan Spitzer rated it it was amazing
Hester Kaplan's The Tell is a fascinating piece of literary fiction. Told from the point of view of Owen Brewer, The Tell is the story of a kind of triangle that develops between Owen; his wife, Mira; and their new neighbor, Wilton Deere. Set in monied Providence, Rhode Island, The Tell examines the nature of addiction and the nuances of a marriage that is in peril. Kaplan's writing is exquisite and makes an interesting narrative absolutely lovely to read.

The Tell Wilton Deere, the new neighbor
Feb 26, 2013 Lisa rated it did not like it
After seeing other reviews, I realize I'm going to be the cheese that stands alone on this, but I didn't like anything about this book.

I felt like the relationship between the husband and wife wasn't authentic. They didn't interact or speak to each other like actual human beings do. It was just stilted and odd. (and not on purpose)

They didn't seem like real people in any way at all. Nothing in the book seemed life-like to me.

I didn't enjoy the author's style of writing. It was just dense for n
Mike Cuthbert
Feb 17, 2016 Mike Cuthbert rated it liked it
Mira and Owen are on the slippery downslope of a troubled marriage when ancient TV soap star Wilton Deere moves in next door. He builds a stockpile of dreams of having his estranged daughter Anya make up with him and maybe even live with him but he spends most of his time buying gifts for his new friends, especially Mira. He and Mira strike up a new kind of friendship that soon turns into a fixation as Wilton takes Mira to the casino and the slots where she spends a lot of time and money. Time s ...more
Betsy Hover
Feb 10, 2013 Betsy Hover rated it liked it
I was delighted to received this book in the goodreads giveaway. This is a book of fiction that examines the risks that people take when trying to form connections and avoid isolation. The four of the main characters are all dealing with their own issues, which the author Hester interweaves together with the other characters in the book.

Apr 07, 2013 Pat rated it liked it
So sad when people wallow in their unhappiness unable to even consider changes in their lives! This is a tragedy involving tragic unlikeable people. I just kept reading - hoping anyone of the 4 characters would MOVE off of center! A total disappointment!!!
Kim Triedman
Jan 23, 2013 Kim Triedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It's exquisitely written and taut, with a plot-line that plays with your expectations and characters that are believable and engaging. Kaplan is a new author for me, and I will definitely track down her other work!
Kate Savage
Dec 16, 2013 Kate Savage rated it it was ok
"It was the essential problem of two -- one would always leave first. That inevitability had hung over them from the beginning."

The book is a primer on all the problems of monogamy and its attendant attempts to possess another person. As such, it is insightful. Except there's never any hope for escape -- everyone is caged without a key, from beginning to end. This isn't a reason in itself to dislike the book. Maybe it's just that jealousy as a plot device fails for me these days, leaving me only
May 16, 2014 Linnet rated it liked it
Owen is an elementary teacher in a school about to close. His wife, Mira, runs a struggling art gallery. They live in her house, a McMansion full of treasures she refuses to sell no matter how difficult times get. Enter Wilton, a has-been tv sitcom star from twenty years ago, living on money from constant reruns on late night tv. Life changes as Mira becomes addicted to the slot machines in a local casino and Owen becomes more and more frustrated with teaching and marriage.
Aug 06, 2013 Rebecca rated it liked it
This book has strong writing and an interesting location - the decaying, once grand, city of Providence. The characters were mostly compelling, but the relationships didn't quite ring true to me either (as another reviewer wrote.) I did feel the book picked up steam toward the end and I loved how it became a real page-turner as I sped through it to see how everything ended. However, I felt everything was wrapped up too much. The threat of violence hung over these characters from the beginning, e ...more
Sharon Warner
Dec 14, 2013 Sharon Warner rated it liked it
I received this novel as a sort of "desk copy" from Harper-Perennial, and I carried it home because I was captivated by the back-cover summary. One of the main characters is seduced by the slot machines at the local casino. I have never had the slightest interest in casinos, but I am compelled by stories that seek to explore addiction. One of my favorite books is the memoir Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. But The Tell doesn't spend a lot of time on Mira's addiction. Even so, I was draw ...more
Mary Lou Dyer
Apr 10, 2016 Mary Lou Dyer rated it liked it
Not sure hw I really felt about the book. It was different from what I normally read so maybe I was expecting something different. I can't say I did not like it because I finished it but seemed hard to get into and never really went anywhere for me.
Oct 17, 2013 Brian rated it it was ok
This novel started out in a fairly interesting way, but by the end, it dragged and dragged and contained dark, unlikable characters. Mira and Owen are a young couple who face a hurdle when a neighbor moves in, an aged actor named Wilton who harbors his old secrets. Wilton is trying to connect with his long lost daughter, Anya. Overall, the characters were well written, just not in a likable way where you actually care about them. And the back description of the book, which I always read to gauge ...more
Vicki M. Arcieri
Feb 14, 2016 Vicki M. Arcieri rated it did not like it
Incredibly boring and uneventful. I kept reading hoping it was going to get better. It did not.
Kingston Bowen
Jan 21, 2013 Kingston Bowen rated it really liked it
Like an earlier review from Bob -- i was also shocked to learn Hester was a woman. I enjoyed the book immensely. I was taken by the descriptions throughout the book. She played the relationships very well. I typically do not read the extras at the end of a book but was taken to them at the end today. It was interesting to read of her background around authors growing up and her connection to the setting of The Tell.

Her look at houses and buildings as part of the story is much like reading Bill B
Robert Thacker
Oct 08, 2013 Robert Thacker rated it really liked it
A fascinating tale of a childless couple and the charming new neighbor, a former sitcom star no less, that invades their life and causes them to discover the unspoken truths about their marriage and their lives.

Well written, with finely drawn characters and a compelling narrative, this story is at once a mystery, a family saga, a modern parable, and a commentary on popular culture. Much more intricate and thought provoking than it first appears, this book kept me fully engaged from beginning to
Apr 26, 2015 Julie rated it it was ok
I really hate giving a bad review of anything. But this book was really not good for me. The writing really jumped around, leaving the reader confused to the time, location, even character of the story. None of the characters were the slightest bit likable. This book was just not at all good for me.
Rebecca Foster
May 20, 2013 Rebecca Foster rated it liked it
(See my full review at

A gripping psychological study of a marriage in crisis. It treads that same fine line between literary fiction and the crime thriller that makes Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl so irresistible. Owen and Mira are happily married and at home in their lovely Victorian in Providence, Rhode Island – until B-list actor Wilton Deere moves in next door.
Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)
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.
Beth Rubenstein
Apr 22, 2013 Beth Rubenstein rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. The writing is deep, thoughtful and compelling. The place - Providence, the house - are strong characters in the book, and add to the fullness of the story. It is a real story - with humanity, longing, humor. It taps all the components of being an adult, and navigating one's life. Painful, crazy, messy but full of light. Ms. Kaplan has a knack for creating full, living characters. I love this book.
Feb 16, 2013 NMS rated it it was amazing
Hester Kaplan owns her craft. I loved her collection of stories, The Edge of Marriage, and couldn't wait to read this. Marriage is one of her specialties. In The Tell she moves beyond the opacity--and seeming banality--of life inside a marriage, writing both fiercely and generously about its real mysteries. It is one of the books I go back to, mining the insights and marveling at the beautiful sentences. Be sure to read it!
Joe Stamber
Dec 31, 2014 Joe Stamber rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, read-2014
I plucked this novel out to read on my Kindle knowing nothing about it. I'm pleased I did, not sure I would have read it if I had seen the blurb. Hester Kaplan has a fine way with words and this gentle tale of love and deceit is a pleasure to read. I had it filed under Contemporary, but that's irrelevant, it's simply a beautifully written engaging story.
Tina Egnoski
May 17, 2013 Tina Egnoski rated it really liked it
This book is a must-read! It's skillfully and beautifully written. One of the best books I've read this year. I'm not big on writing lengthy reviews about plot, etc., but I can say unequivocally that if you're a fan of literary fiction that tells a great story with stunning language and intriguing characters, this book is for you!
Jan 04, 2014 Rachna rated it liked it
A hauntingly disturbing book about gambling addiction, an affair, and the things we don't tell our spouses about.
Cory Silverman
Feb 25, 2013 Cory Silverman rated it liked it
Not sure I loved the book but did find myself picking it up to keep reading, especially towards the end. In the final half of the book, you really get to start feeling for the characters and the different perspectives on life each carries which brings them together.
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I write and I teach writing, and I love to talk about books and writing. I come from a family of writers, and have seen how much publishing and book promotion has changed. I really like the ability to talk to readers through sites like Goodreads, and I'd love to hear from you.
"The Tell" is about marriage--a great interest of mine--and the limits of knowing another person. It is also about addictio
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“He thought she might understand that you couldn't cure the throbbing of loss with reunion--you might only make it beat harder and hotter.” 2 likes
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