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Tell Me Something True

by Leila Cobo


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 mother’s letters.

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.

The Book

Grand Central Publishing / Hachette
October 1, 2009
0446519367 / 9780446519366
More at
NOTE: Holiday read: Story is set at Christmas time.

The Reviewer

NOTE: Reviewer Maxine Thompson is the author of How To Promote, Market and Sell Your Book Via eBook Publishing, The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sells, and The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love. Her fiction includes The Ebony Tree, which won a small PEN award, No Pockets in a Shroud, a short story collection titled A Place Called Home, and the recently released Hostage of Lies. Her next novel, LA Blues, is due out in October 2010.
Reviewed 2010
© 2010