Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt ~ 360 pages ~ published 6/19/12 by Random House
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.
What I Thought:
I read Tell The Wolves I’m Home for my bookclub. After I posted on my Goodreads page that I was currently reading it, I got a ton of people (including my very well-read big sister) telling me that it was one of their favorite books and that they were so excited I was going to read it. So, I got my hopes up a little.
Overall, I did really like the book. It was set in 1987, which just so happens to be the year I was born, so I found the world of the book fascinating. I really enjoyed all of the various references to the pop culture of the time period as well. It really helped to immerse me into the world.
As for the characters, I will say that it took me a little while to really attach to June, the narrator. At first, I found her a bit annoying, but the more I journeyed with her, the more I liked her. She embodied the feeling of being a teenager and having no idea who you really are yet. As she started to figure that out, she became so much more well rounded, and by the end of the book, I enjoyed her and felt a sort of kinship with her.
The relationships June had with Uncle Finn, and later with Toby, were a bit odd. While I definitely feel like June’s relationship with her uncle was unhealthy (and at times super uncomfortable *shivers*), I think by the end of the book, she had grown and realized that her love for him was not so much romantic as it was formative. Finn allowed June to be herself, quirks and all, something that Toby also allowed in her, which I think is why she became so close to them both. Friendship doesn’t have to look a certain way. Each one is unique, and can certainly span generations.
June’s relationship with her sister, Greta, also became something beautiful, even if I really hated Greta at first. I think that is a testament to Carol Rifka Brunt’s brilliance – I think we were supposed to hate Greta at first, because that was how June was feeling; our relationship with Greta grew right along with June. I loved that.
The treatment of AIDS in this novel was also extremely interesting to me. This was still in the era where people thought you could catch AIDS simply by being near someone who had it. I learned so much about the early stigma against the disease from this book, which I really enjoyed.
I gave this book 4 STARS! I liked it quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it to others. A good coming-of-age novel is always up my ally!
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