Tell Me How to Be

Neel Patel. Flatiron, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-18497-9
In Patel’s resplendent debut, a mother and son reveal their secrets and regrets. Twenty-eight-year-old struggling songwriter Akash Amin learns early on that the problem with lies is that “they always circle back to the truth.” His widowed mother, Renu, meanwhile, believes lies “are like children, the second you conceive them, you must protect them at all costs.” Akash leaves his lover, Jacob, in Santa Monica to help clear out his childhood home in Illinois on the first-year anniversary of the death of his physician father before Renu sells the house and departs for London. There, while preparing a puja, Akash finally comes out to Renu, confronts his successful older brother, Bijal, about the real reasons behind an embarrassing drunken incident at Bijal’s wedding four years earlier, and deals with the secrets behind a betrayal by an adolescent crush. Renu, meanwhile, wrestles with the fallout from forsaking happiness for the sake of tradition in her arranged marriage, a long-ago forbidden love with a Muslim man, and an insufferably lonely life surrounded by “cornfields, strip malls and Chinese restaurants named after feelings.” Patel skillfully maneuvers through the treacherous territory of abandoned dreams, family squabbles, and cultural clashes before finding a resounding catharsis for mother and son. The result is noteworthy and memorable. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/02/2021
Release date: 12/08/2020
Genre: Fiction
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