Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Book Review: "Tell Me How to Be" by Neel Patel

Tell Me How to Be is an emotional, well-written story about secrets, regrets, and coming to terms with the truth.

It’s been one year since Akash’s father died. Living in Los Angeles, mostly estranged from his family, he’s expected home in Illinois for the traditional ceremony celebrating his father. His mother calls and tells him she’s sold their house and will be moving back to London.

In the year since her husband died, Akash’s mother, Renu, has been binge-watching soap operas and longing to tell off everyone around her. She’s also been thinking nonstop about her first love, the man she let get away, and whom she’s longed to be with most of her life. So when she finds him on Facebook, she decides to reach out and see where that path might lead.

Returning home to Illinois is unsettling for Akash, who is adrift in every aspect of his life. He’s kept his sexuality a secret from his family, he’s struggling as a songwriter, and turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism has proven more destructive than soothing. And he can’t seem to stop thinking about his childhood best friend, who broke his heart years before.

As Akash and Renu pack the house up along with Akash’s ultra-successful older brother, they must confront the secrets they’ve kept hidden, the resentments that barely dwell beneath the surface, and accept themselves, flaws and all. It’s amazing how an offhand remark or gesture can scar someone so profoundly.

Having read his debut story collection, I love the way Neel Patel writes. I’ll admit it took me a LONG time to warm up to these characters as they’re not particularly likable, but I’m a sucker for good family drama and unrequited love. Tell Me How to Be is a thought-provoking, insightful read.

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