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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (As Told to Me) Story by Bess Kalb

This is an irresistible tribute to Kalb's funny, opinionated, fiercely loving grandmother--a granddaughter's best friend and a wise and formidable character.

I listened to Bess Kalb's irresistible love letter to her late grandmother, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me. The audiobook was wonderful and read by Kalb.

The author saved every one of her grandmother's voicemails, and here she uses them--along with emails, letters, vividly recalled conversations, and her grandma Bobby's imagined thoughts from beyond the grave--to construct a picture of a formidable, tough-love, fiercely protective matriarch in Bobby Bell.

Through Bell's voice we also learn what has shaped the other women of the family: we hear rich stories of Bell's own mother--who fled Belarus in her youth--and her hardships and determination; and we glimpse the difficult relationship between Bobby and her daughter (Kalb's mother) and how it affected each woman's life trajectory.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is based upon Bobby's stories and exchanges with Kalb, but I knew I was hooked on this one and on Bobby's voice when Kalb began the book with an imagined critique from Bobby of her own funeral.

Kalb shares rip-roaring tales of family history; Bobby's distinct pride in generations of the family having overcome various hardships; her crisp, specific advice about fashion, shopping, love lives, career, and transportation; her unwavering familial loyalty, even within fraught relationships; and, ultimately, Kalb's own loss of her beloved best friend and grandma, which shakes her life and reshapes the family forever.

Bobby's recounted memories don't paint her as anything close to a saint; she recounts the evidence of her faults as passionately as the recollections of her life's triumphs--many of which center around having made Bess feel safe and happy and seen.

This is a heartwarming, funny, poignant, sassy tribute to a life fully lived and to a determination love freely, deliberately, and unwaveringly. It made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. I just adored this gem.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Emmy-nominated writer Kalb (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) is also a contributor to New Yorker.

This is her first book, but I really hope she writes another.


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