I Meant To Tell You explores the toll that is taken when you keep secrets, and when you reveal them.
The story is comprised of three women’s stories: the protagonist Miranda and, sandwiched between Miranda’s chapters, her old friend Ronit and her mother, Judith.
The novel opens with a high-impact flashback as Miranda and Ronit are arrested while Ronit and her young daughter Tali are attempting to flee the country and Ronit’s abusive husband, Tim. It then settles into a slower-paced rhythm as we learn about Miranda’s job at a D.C. think tank studying health insurance costs and her engagement to Russ, who is as socially conscious as she is.
When Miranda neglects to tell Russ about her prior arrest for attempted kidnapping, it threatens his security clearance and his career, and drives a wedge between them. So begins Miranda’s slow spiral into subtly self-destructive behavior based on an ever-growing web of lies.
Nearly half-way into the book, the author jumps to Ronit’s story for a good chunk of time. It might have been less jarring to enter Ronit’s world earlier in the novel, but I understand the three-part structure the author was going for. This section depicts Ronit and Tali’s everyday life, including Tim’s horrifying transgressions against Ronit.
Judith becomes an increasingly important character, and I was excited to read her section near the end. It did not disappoint. Judith reveals a long-held secret about Miranda’s father that throws Miranda for a major loop. This part of the plot drives home how important it is for kids to know where they come from, and how much our home life shapes our identity whether we acknowledge it or not.
Miranda comes from a long line of activists and changing the world for the better is her passion. I enjoyed the exploration of the power and, paradoxically, the impotence, of fighting for equality through protests and other peaceful demonstrations.
The story is also a wonderful immersion into Washington, D.C. culture, from the politics and history to the tourist attractions and natural beauty. Much of the writing is lovely, with strong analogies and memorable voices, especially the obnoxious Tim’s.
In the end, I Meant To Tell You is about secrets. It pushes the reader to question which type of secrets are valid to keep and why. And it’s a stark reminder that we all have secrets of one kind or another. As one character says, “No one over the age of two is ever one hundred percent honest with anyone else, no matter how close they are.”