TELL EVERYTHING by Sally Cooper (Dundurn), 216 pages, $21.99 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Tell Everything tells us everything – in selected, suspenseful, breathless segments – that makes going to work, falling asleep or getting off the subway at the right stop nearly impossible.
Pauline works a crap job in a small town, while her boyfriend, Alex, interns at a hospital. She enjoys being cut off, having few friends and spending a lot of time making curious art, writing rough drafts and watching talk shows.
When Pauline buys a newspaper one day, she’s confronted by a past trauma. A mug shot on page one shows Ramona, suspected of murdering her husband and accused of sexually abusing teen girls with her husband for years. Pauline knows she’ll likely be called to testify, but keeps that from Alex and the police.
The trial is a sensational train wreck, and comparisons to Bernardo/Homolka are inevitable, though there are specific differences. A thinly disguised aggravating female journalist is captured so well, those who recognize the parody will laugh out loud.
Cooper unveils Pauline’s tragic story without giving in to a melodramatic victim narrative. Everything about the relationship between Pauline, Ramona and her husband is a blur. Who’s to blame? Who takes things too far?
Cooper examines the uncertainty experienced by teen girls in relation to sex, power and the need for love and clarity when parents aren’t present at critical moments. She lets us in so far that we question the moral certainties we ourselves held dear on page one.
Tell Everything is a tremendous accomplishment from a writer with a gift for complex character development, agonizing suspense and the occasional lyrical gem of a sentence.
Read it even if you’re creeped out by the subject. In fact, that’s probably the best reason to dive in.