Author: Leila Cobo
The characters in this novel are flawless in their flaws. Leila Cobo is a seasoned writer, effortlessly casting her net in “Tell Me Something True.” This debut novel winds through numerous labyrinths of love, loss and betrayal within the relationships of mothers and daughters, family in general, between lovers and within cultures.
Gabriella Richard is 4 years old when her mother dies in a tragic plane accident on her way to Cali, Columbia to finish her book of architectural photography. Gabriella’s father, Marcus, raises and supports her in her struggle to become a classical pianist. Ever since she can remember, Gabriella returns to her Grandmother Nini’s palatial home in Columbia for a month. This year proves different. Gabriella, now 21, beautiful and overprotected, realizes that her mother was on her way to leave her and her father on the plane trip that left Helena dead. In a musty mansion owned by her grandmother, she finds her mother’s diary and exposes herself to the fat that her mother had a lover who she was returning to in Columbia on the day she died.
The black and white world Gabriella sways through is further compounded by her family. Marcus, a famous film director in Hollywood, lives a simple unpretentious life and has never remarried. He teaches Gabriella not to be fooled by the pretentiousness of Hollywood and keeps her thoroughly grounded. Grandmother Nini, a member of the social elite in Cali, and her cousin Juan Carlos, demand that Gabriella behave in the proprietary manner of a young woman of their social class. And Gabriella, wondering if she really wants the rigorous life of a classical pianist, molds herself to please everyone.
Juan Carlos, her 24 year old cousin drags her to a party. Juan Carlos mentions the word, “Mafioso” as they enter the gate which is surrounded by an army of armed guards. A marvelous party in a huge mansion with strange people she does not know. Left adrift, she wanders into the library and finds her mother’s only book of photography on the shelves and pulls it out. As she looks at the pictures of architecture her mother has captured, a man wanders in. The chemistry is instantaneous. He is beautiful. He sits beside her and shows her the picture in the book and says – that is my house.
While she reads the diary, Gabriella falls in love with Angel, the son of Columbia’s biggest drug lord, now in jail. The struggle Gabriella endures – she is of a different social class and cannot be seen with Angel – is exacerbated while she reads of her mother’s passionate love affair. Her mother writes of her consuming love for a Cali businessman and she writes that she plans on leaving 4 year old Gabriella and Marcus for this man.
Gabriella cannot stop the tumultuous orbit of this story wherein she follows in her mother’s footsteps. She falls deeply in love with Angel, who keeps trying to tell her he is not his father. The juxtaposition of Angel and his father is the same as Gabriella and her mother. When a horrible event ensues that almost kills Angel and endangers her, Gabriella has to pause. She must make a choice that her mother faced also.
The intricate steps in this growing of age novel crosses many bridges and enters many tunnels. Gabriella has challenged her grandmother – if Nini tells Marcus of this affair, Gabriella will tell her father the truth in the diary. In the betrayal of her father and her grandmother, she only feels her love for Angel, until ….
The ending of this novel soars. As she leaves Columbia, alone, she realizes that she would have done the same thing as her mother if she had had the courage. She forgives her mother completely, and decides, once back in L.A., to return to Columbia. Without an Angel to go back to. It is her home.
This first novel, one of the best that I have read all year, throws question after question at the reader and tosses us all back to our first loves and the choices we may or may not have made. Gabriella loses herself and finds herself in this entangled story. And we do the same.
Relentless an absolutely honest, the surprise ending is unbeatable. Wonderful writing, content, themes and characters and not the usual at all. So up-sweeping in its truth of what we really feel and what we really do, this novel is a must read. Bravo!
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
“Tell Me Something Good” can be purchased at Amazon.com for $10.06
Thank you to the Hachette Book Group for providing our review copy as well as copies to give away.
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