Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: "Tell the Wolves I'm Home" by Carol Rifka Brunt

Beautiful, painful, and brilliant, Carol Rifka Brunt's Tell the Wolves I'm Home broke my heart and gave me hope. Fourteen-year-old June Elbus has one soul mate, one person with whom she feels she can be herself completely, one person that understands her completely. That person is her uncle, Finn, a renowned artist who sees in June a kindred spirit. They explore many New York landmarks, enjoy fine art, classical music, and Finn nurtures June's love of medieval times.

When Finn dies of AIDS in 1987, June is devastated. She knows her mother is experiencing a different kind of loss, yet she doesn't understand her mother's anger and refusal to talk about Finn's life. June's older sister, Greta, with whom she has a very fractious relationship, treats June cruelly and plays on her deep loss. When Finn's friend, Toby, who has been ostracized by June's family and others close to Finn, contacts June, she is afraid to betray her mother's wishes. The more she gets to know Toby, she realizes this relationship helps her keep Finn alive, although she is jealous that Finn loved someone other than her. And then June realizes her feelings for Toby are more than simply a substitution for Finn, yet this realization comes at a cost.

This book is so beautifully written, and Brunt really evokes the pain and hopefulness of the teenage years, and the way that a special relationship can make a lonely person open up. It captures the uncertainty surrounding AIDS in its early days, and how those with the disease—and gay people in general—were treated by their lovers' families. At times I found Greta's treatment of June almost too mean and hurtful to enjoy, but the way Brunt resolved this issue and their relationship worked for me. This is a book about loss, love, the pain of jealousy, and the beauty of friendship, and while it certainly is poignant, it's also hopeful. Enjoyed it tremendously.


  1. Why do I tear up every time I read one of your posts? Absolutely beautiful!!

  2. I read this one recently and enjoyed it, I think because I found June such an engaging narrator. I agree that some parts were fairly repetitive and other parts were explored without being fully explained, but for a debut I thought the language was just lovely.

    Marlene Detierro (Renton's River Adventures, Inc.)