If you’ve been looking for a book that gives you a solid cathartic weep and a renewed sense of joy in family ties, look no further than “Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (As Told To Me) Story” by Bess Kalb (Alfred A. Knopf). It’s a generational love story of sorts, and it alternates between Kalb, a TV writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” who lives in Los Angeles, and the imagined voice of her late grandmother, Bobby Bell, who has a lot to say, even in death.
“It’s a terrible thing to be dead. Oh, how boring. How maddening. Nothing to do. Nothing to read. No one to talk to. And everyone’s a mess. Thank god for that, at least. The rabbi at the service didn’t know me from Adam.”
“My coffin was perfect. Although I could have done without the Jewish star. What am I, a Zionist? All of a sudden everyone becomes very religious on behalf of the deceased.”
Kalb saved every voicemail her grandmother ever left her, and she channels her throughout the book in a back-and-forth that is funny, tender and incredibly moving. It’s both a family history and a celebration of the bond between grandmother and granddaughter.
The book is “not an objective account of my grandmother’s story, but rather a representation of a life, an echo, an impression, shaped and blurred through two generations and many retellings,” Kalb explains in the Author’s Note. It is full of advice — on everything from which J. Crew peacoat to buy (“You won’t look good in the camel color. Buy it in black”) to larger pronouncements, advice her own grandfather used to give her: “When the earth is cracking behind you, put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.”
“I can’t tell you how many times that mantra has carried me forward,” Kalb recently told Publishers Weekly. “And the second-best advice was: If you find a lipstick that looks good on you, buy all of them, because it’ll get discontinued and you’ll never forgive yourself.”
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