Her language throughout is a cornucopia for the senses, especially scents, aromas, and stenches, not just of almond soap on skin or "mulchy" lentil stew, but smells of disappointment, ambition, or "the best intentions." Similes and metaphors take unexpected curves; though they are occasionally interruptive, they are mostly spot-on: i.e., the librarian's Rhode Island accent was like "bright melted plastic."
Kaplan also hits the mark with her pithy asides about Providence: "a place that was proudly peculiar and proudly backward" and "without pretension but full of self-importance"; her settings in Fox Point, the East Side, and across the Point St. Bridge are evocative.
The Tell is an exceptionally good read for all of the above, plus Kaplan's skill at creating suspense for each of her main characters; her insightful look at the subtle balance between privacy and sharing in marriage; and her thoughtful examination of unresolved emotions around past tragedies. That she provokes us to ponder the latter two in our own lives is a true mark of the author's success.
HESTER KAPLAN | East Providence Public Library, 41 Grove Ave | January 28 @ 7 pm | Free | 401.434.2453 | eplib.org + Books On the Square, 471 Angell St, Providence | February 2 @ 4 pm | Free | 401.331.9097 | booksq.com