Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tell Me Something True by Leila Cobo

Tell Me Something True cover

Tell Me Something True
by Leila Cobo

Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
First Released: 2009

Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description (from publisher website):
Gabriella always loved the picture of her mother kneeling in front of a bed of roses, smiling, beautiful and impossibly happy. But then she learns that her late mother hated gardening; that she no longer wanted the house in the Hollywood hills, the successful movie producer husband, and possibly, her only daughter. When Gabriella discovers a journal--a book that begins as a new mother's letters to her baby girl, but becomes a secret diary--the final entry leaves one question unanswered: the night her mother died, was she returning to Colombia to end an affair, or was she abandoning her family for good?

Tell Me Something True is a well-written and compelling novel with complex characters and a realistic plot. The novel was set in Cali, Colombia, and the details about the culture and city brought the scenes alive in my imagination. I read late into the night to discover what happened next. But it's a difficult novel to describe. The closest I can get is that it's about learning there are real, life-changing consequences to your actions and just because you think you can get away with something, you might be wrong and maybe you shouldn't do it.

The book was written with two main, alternating viewpoints: Gabriella's third person, present tense viewpoint and her mother's diary written in first person, past tense. I barely noticed the use of present tense, perhaps helped by the chapters being short and alternated with those in past tense.

I didn't really like Gabrielle or approve of her choices. She's self-centered, drinks socially at parties until she's drunk, occasionally uses drugs, purposely dresses provocatively, casually sleeps with her boyfriends, and so on. The other characters also had a tendency to do selfish things and try to justify them to themselves and to others. Still, I felt sympathy for the pain they were going through, and I could understand why Gabrielle and Angel were drawn to each other.

The ending was a bit sad but realistic.

There was some Spanish used in the novel, but either it was translated or a simple word or phrase that was easy to figure out from context and which wasn't critical to understanding what was going on. There was a minor amount of bad language. The sex (pretty much all of it outside of marriage) was not graphic/explicit. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written, fairly clean novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The air feels sweet and moist and just the slightest bit warm when you get off the 9 p.m. flight to Cali. It clings to your skin, but in the faintest, most tenuous way, like the sheerest of gauze blouses touching but not touching your arms as you breathe. When Gabriella tries to explain the sensation to her friends, they just don't get it.

"How can you feel or smell any air," they always ask, "if you arrive into an airport terminal?"

"It's not a real terminal," she is forever responding. And it isn't, to her at least. It's a building with open windows and no air-conditioning, and if it's raining, drops of water sweep in, like mist, and it makes her feel as though she's arrived somewhere real and tangible and alive, so far from a carpeted airport terminal you feel like you're in another world.

Her friends from up there never come down here. They're afraid of getting killed, or worse.

"I don't know what's wrong with these people," she complained to her father as he watched her pack the night before. "It's extraordinary, really. They go to Singapore, to Turkey, to Peru! But Colombia is too dangerous."

Her father didn't say anything, because he's as guilty as they are, absent from her trips for over a decade.

Read more of chapter one.

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