Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel

Cover of Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel
Neel Patel
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Dec 7, 2021

Welcome back to our (mostly) weekly series, #NewTitleTuesday, where we take a brief look at a book that's released out into the world. We usually don't spotlight books destined to hit the New York Times bestseller list or books already claimed by celebrities with online book clubs, as they already have enough attention. (But seriously, Reese, if you're reading - call us! We'll talk books!) Instead, we like to spotlight books just slightly under the radar. Books with reasonable holds lists that are less than, say, five hundred people long.

Happy book birthday to TELL ME HOW TO BE by Neel Patel. This debut novel focus on two characters who are both keeping secrets from each other and, possibly, themselves. Renu Amin is a recently-widowed Indian woman who seemingly has an ideal life on the outside to everyone around her. However, on the one-year anniversary of her husband's death, she starts to regret the path that her life has taken and plans on selling the family home in Illinois to move to London. But, impulsively, she sends a Facebook message to the man who she was in love with over thirty years ago before her arranged marriage, which causes an uproar and makes her confront some things in her past she would rather not face.

Her son, Akash, is living a quiet life with his partner as a struggling songwriter in Los Angeles, when he returns to his childhood home to say goodbye before it gets sold and his mother leaves the country. He's having problems both committing to his boyfriend and coming out to his mother, but his return puts him in contact with the man who broke his heart long ago - and he, too, must confront things in his past he would rather not face.

This story, about the bitterness of the family secrets we keep from each other - and ourselves - is told with warmth, humor, a scalpel-like insight, and a ton of heart, and marks Patel as an author to watch. His 2018 short story collection, IF YOU SEE ME DON'T SAY HI, gained recognition from authors like Celeste Ng, and this full-length novel, his first, would fit snugly into any book club list (*cough* Reese *cough*) or for readers who like to read addictive family dramas laced with humor. Place your holds!

Written by Gregg W.

I have surprisingly strong opinions about comic book characters.