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Nobody Will Tell You This But Me

A True (As Told to Me) Story
Written by: Bess Kalb
Narrated by: Bess Kalb
Length: 4 hrs and 21 mins
5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"When I stop crying, I'm calling my mother immediately and making her read it." (Jodi Picoult)

"Comic lines as good as in any movie, and pathos as deep as in any novel." (Mike Birbiglia)

Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force - irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at 90, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life. Recounting both family lore and family secrets, Bobby brings us four generations of indomitable women and the men who loved them. 

There's Bobby's mother, who traveled solo from Belarus to America in the 1880s to escape the pogroms, and Bess' mother, a 1970s rebel who always fought against convention. Then there's Bess, who grew up in New York and entered the rough-and-tumble world of LA television. Her grandma Bobby was with her all the way - she was the light of Bess's childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love, even if sometimes of the toughest kind. 

In Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bobby reminds Bess of the experiences they shared, and she delivers - in phone calls, texts, and unforgettable heart-to-hearts - her signature wisdom: If the earth is cracking behind you, you put one foot in front of the other. Never. Buy. Fake. Anything. I swear on your life every word of this is true. 

With humor and poignancy, Bess Kalb gives us proof of the special bond that can skip a generation and endure beyond death. This book is a feat of extraordinary ventriloquism and imagination by a remarkably talented writer. 

©2020 Bess Kalb (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“An endearing, bittersweet, entertainingly fresh take on the family memoir. Kalb employs an unconventional yet highly effective and charming narrative, channeling the voice and personality of her grandmother, Bobby Bell, who snares readers' attention right from the first, [as] Kalb sharply reimagines her inner thoughts and remembers her fiercely nurturing criticism. The narrative skillfully captures Bobby's wit, worldly advice, well-intentioned meddling, and enduring love for her granddaughter. Readers familiar with the Bobby in their own families will appreciate the stoic overprotectiveness and exasperation that come with being a parent and grandparent. As the book progresses, the story becomes both sad and poignant - the photos and the imagined conversations make for sometimes heartbreaking reading, honoring a beloved grandmother’s legacy.” (Kirkus, starred review) 

“I have not been as profoundly moved by a book in years. If you have a mother or grandmother, or ARE a mother or a grandmother, this is required reading. Bess Kalb's fictional-factual tribute to the relationship she had with her grandmother - the way her history was passed to her by blood, along with bright memories and Jewish guilt and fierce, fierce love - could have been my own story. When I stop crying, I'm calling my mother immediately and making her read it.” (Jodi Picoult, author of A Spark of Light)
 

“We are the stories we leave behind, and so we must depend on the storytellers who carry forward our memories. 'Grandma Bobby' gave Bess Kalb gifts of love and language (and lunches at the Plaza!), and in this deeply moving and powerful book, Bess repays her in full with a magnificent act of conjuring. Bobby, and the line of stubborn women of which she was the keystone, lives on in this act of love. This book made me miss my own grandmother, who didn’t have Bobby’s style, but was just as fierce. I wish I had listened to her as carefully as Bess did to Bobby. As we Jews say, the memory of Bobby is a blessing to Kalb, and now, thankfully, to all of us.” (Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!)

What members say

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  • Overall
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  • Kirsten H.
  • 2020-04-17

It might be me

I just didn’t get the appeal of this book. I felt trapped in someone else’s house and they wouldn’t stop talking! Not my cup of tea.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Stephanie A
  • 2020-05-19

Beautiful memoir

Enjoyed being able to hear the book in Bess Kalb’s voice and how she imitated her grandmother’s voice. The narrative was beautifully stitched together weaving between the 4 generations. What a wonderful tribute to her grandmother and entire family.

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  • Royster
  • 2020-05-15

Curmudgeon time

I like memoirs, and I especially like Jewish-y New York-y family memoirs. This one left me absolutely cold. The main character -- Kalb's grandmother -- is not only not very interesting, she's actually kind of an obnoxious person: self-centered, a snob, a fat-shamer, a name dropper, materialistic, dictatorial, and opinionated (but not in a funny way). I cringed a lot, and I don't think that was what the author intended. Sure, grandma loves her granddaughter, and granddaughter reciprocates the feeling, but is that a story that really needs telling again? And the central family arc, from shtetl to middle (or in this case upper) class prosperity, has been told a hundred times and in more endearing ways. Unless author Kalb knows a publisher or editor really well, or was due a favor, I'm not sure why this book got made. I'm glad it was short.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-05-10

No one will tell you how good this book is

Really enjoyed listening to this story. The relationships came alive for me. I may even listen to it again!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-05-05

Amazing book!

Absolutely loved this book. Brought tears of sadness and love and laughter. It touches your soul.

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  • Ben
  • 2020-04-20

Short, Funny and Beautifully Written

Wonderful and funny book. Beautiful memory of a young woman and her grandmother, reflecting back a few generations. The end was so touchingly written that it moved me to tears. That never happens. Definitely will recommend it as a selection for my book club.

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  • Megan B
  • 2020-04-17

Just what we all need these days

I loved this book immensely. Bobby is the grandmother that we all need.
Bess is a beautiful writer. Her narration is perfect, bc she is reading words that are so true and pure and full of love and hurt and sadness and joy.

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  • poppy0212
  • 2020-04-15

beautiful

laughed, cried, bought it for my mom. love hearing the author's own voice telling the story.

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  • Wendy Wolock
  • 2020-04-04

Multigenerational matriarchal love story

I laughed out loud and cried as well. Every mother, daughter, granddaughter will see some of themselves here. Just loved this book.

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  • Barbara G. Henke
  • 2020-04-04

Wonderful!

This is a wonderful story! Having granddaughters only sweetened the experience.

It was hilarious and made me cry. Performed so well that all the loved seeped through to my heart.