Gabriella Richard is twenty-one years old, a classical pianist, gorgeous, and since her mom died when she was four years old, used to getting her way. Her father, a wealthy and well-known player in the movie industry, has always wanted her to grow up knowing the non-white half of her heritage, and has sent her to visit her grandmother in Cali, Columbia every year for a month, for as long as Gabriella can remember.
Gabriella has always longed for the month that she spends with her grandmother in Columbia. Though used to having all that she wants, Gabriella is also hard working, responsible and unaccustomed to having servants waiting upon her at her home in Beverly Hills; so she loves that she is able to let it all go and be completely taken care of by her grandmother, their servants, and her controlling cousin Juan Carlos. But on her last trip to Columbia, Gabriella deviates from the normal flow of things when she meets and starts to fall for Angel, an intriguing young man with dangerous family connections, and accidentally discovers a diary left to her by her mother that rocks the foundation of everything she has understood about her family and herself.
This is a compulsively addictive read. I set aside a few hours to get started on it Saturday afternoon, and didn’t stop until I had read the entire thing. I was immediately intrigued by Gabriella and Helena’s stories and the worlds both women attempted to navigate. Though there are similarities in the backgrounds of Gabriella’s parents in that they both come from professional and well to do families, the expressions of their cultures and how each interprets and displays their wealth is very different. Helena has to adjust to how she is perceived as a Latina woman while she lives in the United States, and she chafes as having her value derived through the identity of her husband and his family, when in her own country her own background and connections open doors for her. Gabriella, though she strongly identifies with her Columbian culture, has to face questions about who she really is as she is drawn deeper into a world with which she is not familiar.
The story of these two strong women is fascinating. I loved the wonderful juxtaposition which had the narrative alternate between the unfolding of Gabriella’s burgeoning romance and current visit to Columbia with Helena’s poignant and thoughtful diary entries to her daughter detailing her own troubling circumstances and choices. As the book starts out the reader knows more than Gabriella about her mother and the diary, but Cobo cleverly switches it around so that at some point Gabriella knows the whole story and the reader is left with all the suspense and tension of trying to figure out what happened to Helena and what causes Gabriella to act the way that she does after she has read the entirety of her mother’s journals.
The theme of parents and children, with a particular emphasis on mothers and daughters, was very strong; and it is interesting to note that while they have experienced vastly dissimilar upbringings, both Angel and Gabriella are motherless children with very strong father figures, and supportive mother figures-Gabriella in personage of her grandmother Nini. When Gabriella confronts what is in her mother’s diary it affects the relationship that she has with all of the people in her life, especially her father and her grandmother.
In Tell Me Something True, Leila Cobo beautifully tells the story of two women struggling to come to terms with their identities, the way they are perceived by the world and even within their families. Cobo has crafted complex and compelling characters for which I had empathy, even when the choices that they made were incomprehensible to me.
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As I have gotten older and fully experience being an adult with all that entails I am much more understanding and forgiving of my parents,and I’m always interested in the nuances of the way parent-child relationships are portrayed in books. Do you like reading books that examine the parent-child relationship? What are some good ones?