The Tell by Hester Kaplan

Hester Kaplan brings such fresh language and uncanny insight to whatever her keen eye lands upon — from pond water to slot machines, from a middle school classroom to a marriage – it’s as if she creates it anew. Everything, everyone, every inflection in The Tell is charged with precision, feeling, and consequence.    —Leah Hager Cohen, author of  The Grief of Others

Hester 9 (2)I carry my copy of The Tell with me everywhere, but I will not permit myself to rush through it.  I want to savor each image, the gradual revelation of each character, the mood of the setting, and the unraveling of the marriage that is central to the book.  I was immensely fortunate to work with Hester Kaplan when I was a student at Lesley University.   She teaches the importance of writing about what is meaningful to the author, and encourages her students to sense when their characters are backing away from what is painful so that we can take them by the hand and move them toward that difficult place.  Characters are “you in everything they feel,” she told me, “everything that helps a story move toward what is real and meaningful.”  With her latest (and engrossing) book, Hester once again reveals her mastery of craft.  As author Caroline Leavitt writes: “Gorgeous and haunting, Kaplan’s riveting new novel about what we fight to hide, or ache to reveal about ourselves, grabs you by the throat and builds to a crescendo that’s pure Greek tragedy.  It’s hard not to use the word genius.”

Hester has told me that she is not so comfortable talking about herself, and would much rather have you read her book instead.  But, since we are here anyway, she is willing to reveal that she gives herself a hearty pep talk every morning before she sits down to write.  She is currently at work on a non-fiction book Renovation, which is about the house she grew up in (both her parents are writers), and the connection between imagination and the aesthetic environment.  Her new collection of short stories and a novella is Unravished.  She is the author of The Edge of Marriage, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Kinship Theory, a novel.  For many years she was a ghostwriter, and can tell you, among other topics, everything you ever wanted to know about moles, washing your face, and how (not) to write a “business novel.” She also worked at magazines, and in book publishing, and is mystified by the business today.  She lives in Providence, RI and is married to Michael Stein, another writer.  She is an avid faculty member in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University and teaches in the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT.

A note about The Tell from the publisher, Harper Perennial:

The first novel in over ten years from acclaimed novelist and short story writer Hester Kaplan, The Tell is a gorgeously written and haunting tale about a marriage that is rocked by the arrival of a strange visitor.  

The Tell cover_rev (4) (2) copy

For Mira and Owen, a young, childless couple living in Providence, marital and financialtroubles are simmering just below the surface– until Wilton Deere, a wealthy, over-the-hill actor, moves in next door.  With no friends to speak of and an estranged daughter to win back, the desperate Wilton inserts himself into the younger couple’s home.  As stresses at work and home take their toll, Mira disappears into a secret life of casinos and slot machines, accompanied always by Wilton.  In time, her escapism turns to full-on addiction, threatening a marital bond that is fraying by the day.  Adrift and alone, Owen finds himself with nowhere to turn but to the beautiful and mysterious Anya, Wilton’s newfound daughter, who is testing her ability to trust her father after years apart.  As Owen and Mira’s marriage reaches what can only be the breaking point, Wilton suddenly disappears.  To set things right, husband and wife must weather a storm of their own making and confront the new reality of their relationship. 

 The Tell went on sale January 8.  Please order a copy from your local independent bookstore or visit  For more information about Hester Kaplan, see:


About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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