Tell Me Something True
Tell Me Something True is about a young woman, Gabriella, who spends a summer visiting family in Colombia and what she learns about her mother, Helena, upon discovering her diary. Helena died when Gabriella was only a baby, so the image Gabriella has of her mother is broken when she is confronted by the secrets her mother kept. Meanwhile, she is dealing with her own life and the complications that arise as she develops a relationship with the son of a drug lord.
After reading the first few chapters, I thought I was going to hate it because it seemed too predictable. But as I kept reading, I felt myself drawn in by the lives of these two women and ended up really liking the book. Despite its predictability (which I found problematic throughout the entire book), it was the development of the characters that I enjoyed. I felt there was a lot about both Gabriella and Helena that I could relate to. As a Latina growing up in the U.S., I struggled with fitting in, balancing independence and obedience, managing expectations, visiting family abroad, etc., and I think a lot of that was captured very well in this book. Of course, these struggles aren’t exclusive to Latinas, and I think there is something for everyone to connect with as they read.
The structure of the novel is one of the things I liked most about it. Each chapter switches back and forth between Gabriella’s experiences in the present, written in the third person, and entries from Helena’s diary, written in the first person. Because the diary entries are moving forward in time (for the most part, anyway), there is an anticipation that comes with each entry as the reader waits to know the whole story. I like novels that jump through time and shift narrators, so in some ways I was the ideal reader. Those who find such narratives frustrating might have a hard time connecting to the story.
Based on the reviews I’ve read, another complaint people have about this book is that they don’t like the ending. There isn’t much I can say without giving it away, but I will say that in many ways the ending made me connect with Gabriella’s character even more. In my opinion, it was a more realistic ending rather than the typical storybook ending. There are also some questions left unanswered about other characters, so there isn’t the sense of closure that people expect. Personally, I don’t mind not knowing, but I can certainly see why others would feel let down by the ending.
So if you like books with traditional narratives and happy endings, you probably shouldn’t pick this one up. But if those things aren’t particularly important to you, this book might be a pleasant surprise, even with its predictability. At its core, this novel is a coming of age story with a couple of twists. It’s also about relationships – the ones that fall apart unexpectedly, and the ones that strengthen under unlikely circumstances.