Tell Me What I Am

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Pub Date 6 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 13 Jun 2024

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Description

'Please don’t hang up. I don’t know if you remember. You used to live with me. You and your mother.'

Ruby lives with her father in an old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road. He teaches her to hunt, to forage for mushrooms, to gut a fish. She learns to tiptoe around his temper – and never to ask about her absent mother.

Ruby has no idea that, hundreds of miles away, a woman she barely remembers is desperate to answer those same questions.

Captivating, tender and deeply moving, Tell Me What I Am is an unforgettable portrait of the indelible bonds of family – and how far we will go for the ones we love.

'Please don’t hang up. I don’t know if you remember. You used to live with me. You and your mother.'

Ruby lives with her father in an old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road. He teaches her to hunt...


Advance Praise

'Beautiful, haunting.' Louise Kennedy

'Vividly real . . . There's love here as well as pain.' Marian Keyes

‘A sure-footed and emotionally complex novel . . . absorbing.’ Irish Times

'I loved it.' Liz Nugent

'Haunting and deeply moving.' Observer

'Propulsive and richly atmospheric.' Irish Independent

'An engrossing, deftly-told story with an aching secret at its heart, this is a profoundly moving novel of family and women standing strong together.' Lisa Ballantyne

'Sharp, poignant, thrilling and moving.' Chris Whitaker

'Compelling . . . Mannion writes with a lyrical economy that stands out, and always shows a deep empathy for her well-drawn characters.' Irish Exanminer

‘A wrenching portrait of the umbilical bond between mother and child and, more powerfully still, an icily persuasive account of the subtle dark arts of male coercion and abuse.’ Daily Mail

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

‘A brilliantly told story, engrossing, with love, pain, heartbreak and darkness. The characterisation was excellent and the plot was moving and gently woven.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘I raced through... Well-written, incredibly tense and chilling in parts.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘A book to savour and appreciate as well as enjoy.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘This is such a powerful story of love and family. It kept me awake desperate to find out what had happened to affect them all so badly.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘This is a beautifully written novel with powerfully drawn characters.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘Had me hooked... Loved it.’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘Wow what a book!’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

'Beautiful, haunting.' Louise Kennedy

'Vividly real . . . There's love here as well as pain.' Marian Keyes

‘A sure-footed and emotionally complex novel . . . absorbing.’ Irish Times

'I loved it.' Liz...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780571358793
PRICE £9.99 (GBP)
PAGES 336

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Featured Reviews

This is such a powerful story of love and family. It kept me awake desperate to find out what had happened to affect them all so badly. It felt almost real like a news story.

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This is a sensitive and moving story of a sister going missing, leaving behind a young, much loved daughter. Nessa is tormented by the need to find out what has happened to her sister. Meanwhile her niece Ruby cannot understand why her mother would desert her. We feel their heartbreak and bewilderment as every relationship is impacted by the one event that changed their lives for ever. Brilliantly written with very believable characters.

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Tell Me What I Am by Una Mannion is an engrossing tale that requires a bit of thought as it jumps backwards and forwards across the years.

The book is about the disappearance of troubled woman Deena Garvey and the effect it has on her family,most notably sister Nessa. Deena's estranged,and abusive, partner Lucas inveigles custody of their 4 year-old daughter Ruby and takes her from Philadelphia to the wilds of rural Vermont to live with himself and his elderly mother..
As Ruby grows up she forgets her previous life but despite Lucas's best efforts it becomes obvious that she hasn't been forgotten.

This is a quite amazing piece of literary fiction with Ruby and Nessa separated by distance,and increasingly time,Nessa never giving up trying to tie the narcissistic Lucas to Deena's disappearance while Ruby is raised by him in an environment that he controls totally.
A book to savour and appreciate as well as enjoy.

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Deena is missing. She left for work but didn’t arrive. Her ex takes custody of their daughter, cuts off Deena’s family and moves out of state. Suspicious? Well Deena has a history of depression, including a suicide attempt, so perhaps she just abandoned Ruby, her four-year-old? But Lucas, the ex-husband is a coercive and controlling man, with a history of domestic violence which led to a restraining order, so perhaps he drove her to the depression and to the suicide attempt? Perhaps he has killed her? How could such a man be allowed sole custody of a child? The answer to the latter is in the legal position that he might have been violent towards his wife, but there is no reason to think he will be a danger to his daughter. He has an alibi for the period when she went missing so can’t have killed her, assuming she is dead since there is no trace of her or her car. His move from Pennsylvania to Vermont clouds the issue since different states have different laws and jurisdictions can't be crossed. Deena’s family, especially her sister Nessa, with who Ruby had been happily settled are devastated but can do nothing because Lucas has refused third-party visiting rights.
The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Ruby, who knows nothing of her past except that her mother left her, and Nessa, whose life has been effectively ruined by the events but who tries to keep the whole issue alive. And so it progresses across fourteen years, as Ruby grows towards her majority. Starting quite slowly, the tale is densely packed with details of Ruby’s life with her controlling father, Deena’s life from Nessa’s memories and the cumulative effect on Nessa and her family. The writing is very powerful, painting portraits of Ruby, Nessa and Lucas which are tangible and deeply disquieting. Tension is always present, even though the plot seems so obvious, because the reader is never sure that they have its measure. The dénouement is highly rewarding. In many books, the period after the resolution is either a blank, leaving the reader with questions unanswered, or quite crowded as all the loose ends are tied together. This story does neither because the details woven so cleverly into it just leave you satisfied. I loved it.
I would like to thank NetGalley, the publishers and the author for providing me with a draft proof copy for the purpose of this review.

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Such a great story with so many levels impacted - the crime side with a "who done it", the emotional family connection, the abuser, and so much more.
This is a great story where you spend a lot working out what really happened....

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Thanks to the publisher for inviting me to read an ARC of this book.

This story starts in Vermont 2018 with Ruby who is the daughter of Deena , it’s so mysterious I could tell after a few pages this book was going consume me and be incredibly good, Ruby is doing her chores and out of the blue gets a phone call from a woman called Nessa who says she’s her Aunt.

The second chapter is Nessa’s story in Philadelphia 2004, it follows the day that Deena went missing ( Deena is Nessa’s sister & Ruby’s Mum), I really enjoyed this chapter it was heartbreaking but also intriguing.

From that point on the story is all set in the past showing Ruby and Nessa’s life until they get to 2018 and Ruby’s first chapter.

I was so moved by this book. It was absolutely beautiful, so poignant, full of life, sadness and also regrets. I can’t really give this book enough justice in my review but I can honestly say it will stay with me for a long time.

Do you know one of those things/ possessions that you’ve got that you love but you don’t want to use?. This is how I felt about this book, I knew it was was going to be incredible so I didn’t want to carry on reading because then it would be over.

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A powerful read whilst being totally engrossing. It is written over several timelines and involves Rub, the main character, who we follow from childhood, through the teenage years to being a young adult. We hear Ruby's story and, running alongside, her Aunt's, Nessa. Whilst it becomes obvious overtime what is going on behind the scenes and the reader will have their suspicions, there are other plenty of other themes throughout to detract. Brilliantly written, moving and heartbreaking at times with believably depicted characters. A definite yes.

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I really enjoyed this story, particularly the intriguing style of writing. My heart was ring throughout as the author drops little nuggets of infortmtion throughout, A very ever and though compelling story.

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When I was offered the opportunity to read Tell Me What I Am, having enjoyed the author's previous novel, I was delighted. The author's first novel was one of my top reads of 2021, and so I had high expectations. This book met those expectations and more.

This book is a dual voice, dual timeline which was executed very effectively and built tension as the story of Deena, Nessa's missing sister unfolds. It's clear that Deena's disappearance has had a profound effect on both Nessa and Deena's daughter Ruby, being raised by her father hundreds of miles away. Fourteen years after Deena's disappearance, the two women are both trying to uncover the truth and the book slowly reveals more about the characters and the impact of Deena's disappearance as the truth starts to emerge. Whilst for the most part, this is a satisfying slow burn, with beautiful writing, and highly developed characters, it is the last quarter of the book where the tension explodes into a faster paced, tense finale.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, with two fascinating, and engaging characters. I found the book compelling and it kept me wanting to read on.. Ultimately this was a powerful, emotive, and empowering read and highly recommended. Thanks to Faber Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read.

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A powerful story, a mix of thriller and family saga. Heartwrenching, intriguing and gripping.
A well written story that I couldn't put down.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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Two women, wrenched apart by a terrible crime, must find a way back to each other
When Deena Garvey disappears in 2004, she leaves behind a daughter and a sister.
Deena's daughter grows up in the country. She learns how to hunt, when to seed the garden, how to avoid making her father angry. Never to ask about her absent mother.
Deena's sister stays stuck in the city, getting desperate. She knows the man responsible for her sister's disappearance, but she can't prove it. Not yet.

Firstly, this is a terrific story well written. I loved the characters and although the point of view changes frequently it’s easy to follow. It’s one of those books that makes you race through to discover what happens next but then be disappointed to finish. A great read and well done.

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A true masterful mix of tension and intrigue that grips you from page one and doesn’t let up, seriously go get the book

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A fantastic book that I couldn’t put down. The author covered some sensitive subjects very well and portrayed the way so many family members are affected by one abusive partner.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC in return for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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I loved this book, the characters were great i really got into them throughout the book. I found it quite emotional at times, Found it easy to read and follow the journey throughout the book. Loved the ending

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This book felt very very real and heartfelt. It is excellently written: the characters are vividly portrayed, their actions ring true and the dialogue is spot on. It is well paced and structured.

The main characters are Nessa and her niece, Ruby. Nessa is the older sister of Deena, who at 17 was sucked into an abusive relationship with an older man, Lucas. Her family are very worried about her, intensely mistrustful of Lucas, but - typically - he is manipulative and estranges Deena from her family until he has total power over her. When their daughter is a toddler, and Deena tries to leave, she suddenly disappears. Nessa is convinced that Lucas has done something, but lives in hope that her sister will be found someday and that she and her daughter will come back.

Meanwhile, Lucas is given custody of Ruby. He brings her to live with his mother, and raises her in his mother's house, first homeschooling her until forced to allow her to go to school.

The novel follows Ruby and Nessa over the next 15 years. It is an excellent portrayal of domestic violence, and of coercive control even without violence. It highlights how difficult it is for families to help their loved ones who are subjected to this abuse, and how little the law supports them.

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A simply beautiful book. Full of yearning and balanced with immense courage and spirit. I adored the characters and the setting. This is a truly stunning novel thanks.

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Tell Me What I Am was a really enjoyable story that I became fully immersed in, I could not put it down. I really enjoyed the writing style and am so glad I read it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for my ARC.

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I didn’t expect to love this story quite so much. I felt strangely bereft at the end saying goodbye to all the remarkable characters but especially Ruby and Nessa. I wanted to stay with them for just a bit longer. This is a really powerful and beautifully written story about family, unconditional love and never giving up.

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This is such a fantastic book! Having previously read A Crooked Tree and really enjoyed it, I was really happy to have something else to read from Una Mannion.
Tell Me What I Am is a haunting story focusing on a young woman, Ruby, and her complicated, damaging past. I love the way that Mannion plunges us straight into her life and gradually tells the story of her past. It really gets across just how confusing and overwhelming it can feel to have survived abusive situations.
Ruby appears to be trying to come to terms with her past when we first meet her at the start of the book, and then we are taken back in time. We see how her mother, Deena, met Ruby's father Lucas and was very quickly pulled into an intense relationship that somehow weakened her ties with others, such as her sister Nessa. Very gradually we see how this relationship developed and how the red flags became more serious. It's a very, very good portrayal of how violent and abusive relationships take hold, and how they affect not only those in the relationship but all the people around them too.
Deena disappears when Ruby is small, and Ruby is then raised by her father, who cuts off Deena's family. Much of the book focuses on the horrific impact this has on Nessa, who not only loses her sister but her niece too. The way that Mannion describes how Nessa's life and mind are completely transformed by Deena's disappearance is truly heartbreaking. She becomes so obsessed with solving the mystery that some of those around her are pushed away. It's particularly sad and touching that she has a chance to have a relationship with a genuinely lovely man, Ronan, and yet feels incapable of being with him because she has been so damaged by the trauma in her family.
Parts of this book are disturbing and upsetting, and that reflects just how well the author has told the story and created the characters. It's a brilliantly written story with characters that feel very real - definitely recommended and thank you Netgalley!

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Beautifully written and relatable book which touches on distressing themes without trying to shock.

Read if you like books about people and their relationships and how they’re affected by the horrible things that people do to each other.

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This deeply disquieting novel is a cut above the slew of domestic thrillers on the market. The tension is constant as this well paced story unfolds through the years. Brilliantly written with very real characters.
My thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for an advance review copy.

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This was a very sad story about a controlling husband/father and his young daughter. The father manages to get control of the child after her mother supposedly goes missing. The story progresses as the child gets older and the domination continues. When the child is 18 years old everything comes tumbling down due to the efforts of the childs aunt.. A very tense and sadly very real story.

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Built on a foundation of the legacies that domestic abuse and coercion leave, this novel is not an easy read, but it is a very worthwhile one. Fourteen years ago and after her mother disappeared suddenly without trace, Ruby was taken from Philadelphia to live in a remote part of Vermont with her intimidating father Lucas and her grandmother. Now that Ruby is getting older, howver, fleeting memories of her early life with her mother resurface in her imagination. Will she ever find out what happened to her mother? Meanwhile, over in Philadelphia, Ruby’s aunt Nessa is doing whatever she can to re-establish contact with her niece and to seek justice for her missing sister. Beautifully written, this tense book will keep you thinking about its female characters long after you have turned its last page. Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the free ARC that allowed me to familiarise myself with Una Mannion’s work and to review this unique, compelling novel.

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A tough subject matter but beautifully written. Deena has disappeared, her daughter Ruby leaves with her father Lucas. Nessa is Deenas sister and believes Lucas killed Deena. The book takes you from when Ruby was 4 to today when she is 18. A mix of past and present. Seen through Ruby and Nessa. Would recommend because the truth does come out

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Fantastic writing, fantastic story, but I so wanted more, when it ended I wanted to hear more about them being together again

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I absolutely loved this book. I was such a fan of A crooked Tree so had high expectations for this and it didn’t disappoint. I was engrossed in this story and found the writing incredible. The characterisation was developed so well through the book. I did at times get confused with the different time periods but it did help develop the plot. I didn’t want this story to end!!! Amazing

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This was my first Una Mannion book and I loved it. Not so much a thriller as an emotional family drama/ tragedy . Beautifully told from a few different pov with warts and all characters who could delight and disappoint in equal measure.
The ending was exactly right and perfectly in keeping with the rest of the story.

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Tell me what I am is a psychological thriller which revolves around the disappearance of Deena Garvey and her sister Nessa’s relentless search for answers. The story which tackles some really sensitive themes is told across multiple timelines and from multiple characters point of view. It’s a really emotional read

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