Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story

Bess Kalb (Author)


"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 ninety, 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's 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 L.A. 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 brought vividly to the page--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.

Product Details

$25.95  $23.87
Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date
March 17, 2020
5.5 X 0.9 X 7.8 inches | 0.7 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

BESS KALB is an Emmy-nominated writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live. Her writing for the show earned her a Writer's Guild Award in 2016. She has also written for the Oscars and the Emmys. A regular contributor to The New Yorker's Daily Shouts, her work has been published in The New Republic, Grantland,, Wired, The Nation, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles.


"A funny, touching and timely reminder of the solace to be found in kindred spirits." --People

"I delighted in Bobby's joy. I cried twice." --Miranda Popkey, The New York Times Book Review

"A poignant and funny look at four generations of women." --Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post

"A unique take on a close daughter-grandmother relationship; a beautiful tribute to Kalb's grandmother, Bobby. Told in her hilarious grandmother's voice, Bess's memoir chronicles her family's story and the love story between these two fabulous women." --Zibby Owens, Good Morning America

"Reliably funny...poignant on the aftermath of loss. Written from the sometimes acerbic, sometimes sweet and always laser-sharp perspective of [Kalb's grandmother, ] Bobby Bell ... in between are loving recollections of their relationship, including snippets of conversations and voicemails and a steady supply of life advice."--Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times

"I have never read anything that feels truer to my experience of having a Jewish grandmother than Nobody Will Tell You This But Me. Bess Kalb's memoir is told from the perspective of her grandmother, Bobby, and Bess captures her voice beautifully. Funny, heartwarming, deeply moving."
--Emily Burack, Hey Alma

"A love story that resonates across generations . . . Grandma Bobby's personality radiates from the page. Like a set of nesting dolls, those stories begin as Grandma Bobby recalls the life story of her own mother, [whose] profound vulnerability--and genius at survival--marks the matrilineal line. With determination, creative thinking and practical planning, Bobby helps lift herself and her family out of their gritty working-class roots and into a comfortable lifestyle she eagerly shares with her granddaughter, Bess. The two were instant soulmates . . . The way Kalb honors her grandmother is a testament to their connection. Original, moving, and funny." --Alison Buckholtz, The Florida Times-Union

"Funny, tender and incredibly moving . . . Both a family history and a celebration of the bond between grandmother and granddaughter--a book that gives you a solid cathartic weep and a renewed sense of joy in family ties." --Mackenzie Dawson, New York Post

"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

"Tender, funny, fresh, and unconventional, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me manages to make something new and wonderful out of a family memoir. Kalb has a light, lovely touch and a big heart, which combine to make this book irresistible." --Susan Orlean

"I am in love with the all-consuming, hilarious, primal relationship between Bess Kalb and her late grandmother, Bobby Bell. This memoir made my heart swell, my eyes alight in amazement and joy. Bobby regales her granddaughter with her infinite wisdom, which is almost always over the top and a little bit critical but delivered with love's exuberance." --Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review

"Lively and fascinating, funny yet poignant. There are laughs galore throughout the book . . . [yet] Kalb processes her own grief as she writes, sharing how she reacted in the days following her grandmother's death. Kalb pulls off [a] daring approach brilliantly--in a bold stroke of literary bravura, she has turned the formula for writing memoirs inside out, bringing her grandmother's distinctive voice back to life and sharing it with a legion of lucky readers . . . Enthralling." --Alice Cary, BookPage [starred review]

"Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is precisely that--a book no one other than Bess Kalb would think to create. It's an invented form that has bursts of comic lines as good as in any movie, and pathos as deep as in any novel. I love this book." --Mike Birbiglia, author of Sleepwalk with Me and The New One

"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." --Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!

"Thank you Bess Kalb for giving us Bobby. She is hilarious and honest and heartbreaking and completely alive in these pages--and I love her." --Gary Janetti, author of Do You Mind If I Cancel?

"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]