THE TELL by Hester Kaplan


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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-218402-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2012


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