Family secrets have a way of bursting out at the seams at the most inopportune times, as
witnessed in Leila Cobo’s debut novel, Tell Me Something True. In this moving story, the
revealed family secret felt like a hand reaching from the grave, grabbing you by the throat.
The author uses the literary devise of a diary of letters to Gabriella, the heroine, as a means
of telling the back-story of Helena, the deceased mother, whose extramarital love affair in
Columbia rocked the latter’s world both literally and figuratively.
From the time Gabriella, a young musical prodigy, was four, her world has been divided into
the dichotomy of Southern California and Columbia. These two diverse worlds are bridged by the
love provided to her by both her widowed father, Marcus, and her maternal grandmother, Nini, whom
she visits in Columbia for a month every Christmas. Gabriella never questions the story about how
her mother died, or the myth of her parents’ happy marriage, until she’s twenty-one, when she goes
to Columbia for her annual Christmas visit.. Up until this point, Gabriella has led a sheltered
life. She unexpectedly goes to a party with her 24-year-old Columbian cousin, Juan Carlos, and
meets Angel Silva, the son of a wealthy drug lord who’s in prison. The chemistry between Gabriella
and Angel is instantaneous and magical. Unfortunately, Angel challenges everything Gabriella has
known about life. This matter is further complicated when, shortly thereafter, she finds her
In Cobo’s debut novel, the story is told from Gabriella’s present tense, third person,
point-of-view, juxtaposed by her mother’s diary/letters to Gabriella, written from the time she was
born. The present tense provides an immediate sense of Gabriella’s world as it unfolds
vis-à-vis her late mother’s past, hidden life as it is revealed.
For a debut novel, the writing is poetic, sensual, and lyrical. Cobo puts the reader there,
where you feel the lush, uncontrolled wildness of the city and jungle of Columbia as opposed to
Gabriella’s tinsel world of Hollywood. This story poses the age-old question, "What is truth in
a person’s life?"
I tremendously enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more work from this author.