We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781398705265

Price: £9.99

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

26-year-old Akash Amin has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories of the first boy he ever loved. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally move on.

Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu can’t stop wondering if she chose the wrong life thirty-five years ago .

Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created.

By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.

What's Inside

Read More Read Less


Once in a while there comes a book that reminds us of why we read: to feel, to question, to grow. This is that book. A love letter to R&B, youth, and the unforgettable agonies of one's first love. The emotional truth of this indelibly portrayed family and their messy lives will leave you weeping and shattered. I will read everything Patel writes from here on.
Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of WHITE IVY
A beautiful book about a mother and son...I really loved this book.
Rumaan Alam, author of LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND
Effortlessly written; tender, irreverent and compassionate when dealing with complex themes of guilt, shame, otherness and family relationships. It made me laugh and cry.
Kavita Puri, author of PARTITION VOICES
Neel Patel's compelling first novel tells a story that is sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and, by the end, deeply moving. Tell Me How to Be explores the high price of secrets, deceit, and regret and the redemptive power of speaking one's truth. Patel's short chapters, immensely readable prose, and talent for continually raising the stakes for his complicated characters kept me turning the pages late into the night. A memorable debut.
Stephen McCauley, author of MY EX-LIFE
Immersive, seductive and elegant, this novel shimmers richly on the surface, even as its depths pulse with potent heartbreak and loss.
Mahesh Rao, author of POLITE SOCIETY
A soulful and seductive love song of a book, Tell Me How to Be is a keen and sharply hilarious celebration of the universal messiness of desire and the necessity of coming clean first with ourselves. I laughed out loud at the prickliness of Renu and ached for Akash through the book's careful unfurling of the past. In this examination of identity through yearning and loss and the enduring consequences of denial, Patel has crafted an unforgettable duet between mother and son.
Nancy Jooyoun Kim, author of THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE
I loved Tell Me How to Be's story of family, first love, and figuring out your place in the world. Neel's writing is vulnerable, authentic and entertaining. This book gives a fresh perspective to complicated family relationships...something everyone can relate to.
Lilly Singh, author of HOW TO BE A BAWSE
Reading this book is like being sucked into another family. I found myself so invested in each of the characters and their happiness. This family made me laugh, they made me reminisce about my own youth and they made me reflect on my own family. One of the best and most beautiful novels I've read all year.
Luan Goldie, author of NIGHTINGALE POINT
A compulsively readable, funny, hard-hitting novel about family, Indian American culture, and the secrets we keep from the ones we love most. Akash is a little bit of a mess-he drinks too much, he's on the precipice of sabotaging his relationship, and let's just say, work is not his forte. When he returns to his childhood home to deal with the death of his father, he's thrust back into the memories of his teenage years and falling in love for the first time-the obsession, the fire, the shame of loving a man-and is forced to confront his past and his sexuality. Neel Patel writes with verve, comedy, and compassion for his characters that are nuanced, flawed, and striving to find their place in the world.
Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor
This book is so beautiful and evocative and relatable.
Sareeta Domingo, editor for WHO'S LOVING YOU
A brilliant novel about mothers and sons, secrets and lies, regret and truth. Neel Patel writes with a clear, empathetic pen, creating a cast of characters that are utterly unforgettable.
Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT
Patel infuses Tell Me How to Be with a lively self-awareness, humor and warmth... Mother and son share a love of guilty pleasures in a novel that asks: When you find the melody that speaks to you, why let it go?
New York Times Book Review