|Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Carol Rifka Brunt
4 / 5
"My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying."
In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.
1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life - someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.
This book has been on my list for ages, and I'm not sure exactly why I picked it up when I did, but I am glad to have finally read it. It is a memorable story about a young girl's relationship with her recently deceased uncle. It takes place in the '80s and she loses him in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. So while June wrestles with her own emotions and reactions to this great loss - her uncle was one of her best friends - she must also grow through adolescence, trying to figure out who she is in relation to her family, her friends, her social life, and the greater world. All of this is complicated by the presence of her uncle's boyfriend Toby, who has been shunned by the family as Uncle Finn's murderer, having passed on the AIDS virus before anyone really knew that was a thing about which to be wary. Toby reaches out to June because they both loved her uncle in a special way, and the two form a rather unlikely (and very covert) bond. June's parents are CPAs, which keeps them extremely busy during tax season, and she is able to leave her upstate NY town regularly to visit Toby in the city, where the two share small adventures and bond over their mutual loss. But as June becomes closer and closer to Toby, she is losing her connection to her family, particularly the strong friendship she used to share with her older sister.
This story has so many complexities which make it a really beautiful one. I have heard June compared to Scout from TKAM, and it is an understandable parallel: both young girls have very narrow world views which lead them to draw simple connections in their heads to explain their environments. When their worlds are burst open, everything changes - the transition from black and white to color, essentially.
I definitely look forward to seeing more from Brunt, if this first novel is any indication!
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