“This is a magnificent portrait of a family coming to terms with not only their individual secrets but also how their secrets impacted each other.
Akash, a man who refuses to tell his family he is gay while living with his boyfriend, and Renu, a widow who has always been more in love with her first boyfriend than the man she married, reveal their pasts to us in snippets. Their regrets overlap and circle each other, each of their perspectives throttled by their insecurities and fear.
Engaging and emotionally turbulent, Patel’s characters, their repeatedly short-sighted choices, and their need for love had me both laughing and tearing up.”
From rising star Neel Patel (“consistently surprising” —New York Times), a darkly funny and emotionally wrought debut novel about an Indian-American family struggling with deeply buried secrets
Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments. She can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on.
Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. Renu sends an innocent Facebook message to the man she almost married, sparking an emotional affair that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Akash slips back into bad habits as he confronts his darkest secrets—including what really happened between him and the first boy who broke his heart. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created, between making each other happy and setting themselves free.
By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.