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Tell the Wolves I'm Home

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2012)
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.

360 pages, Hardcover

First published June 19, 2012

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Carol Rifka Brunt

3 books1,920 followers
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5 stars
49,633 (35%)
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3 stars
25,271 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,553 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews769 followers
October 7, 2018
Cross-posted at Shelf Inflicted and at Outlaw Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that left me completely speechless. I am struggling to find words to express how deeply this story affected me. I read a few reviews and decided it wasn’t for me. My closest friend, Mark, died of AIDS in 1995 and I wasn’t in the mood for anything that may trigger sad memories. Nor was I in the mood to read of the painful and joyful reminiscences of a 14-year-old girl who lost her beloved uncle to the disease. I’m so glad Jason’s review made me change my mind.

This story is much more than the deep love June Elbus had for her uncle, Finn Weiss, who was the only man in her life who understood her completely. It is also about the strained relationship she has with her older sister, Greta, navigating the tumultuous years between childhood and adulthood, and the pain caused by suppressed feelings that result in anger, resentment, and jealousy.

I could understand and relate to June in so many ways. She’s introverted, introspective and an outsider, but she’s no pushover. She’s not that interested in what others think of her, often making her own decisions regardless of peer or parental pressure. I believe that perhaps June was born in the wrong city and the wrong time. At nine, she fantasized about time travel. Now, like her Uncle Finn, she is fascinated with the life and art of the Middle Ages and retreats into another world during her solitary trips to the woods, and their visits to the Cloisters.

Though Finn’s death has affected June’s entire family in different ways, it is June’s pain that feels the most acute. She was the one who spent the most time with him and connected with him on so many levels. So imagine how she feels when she learns that she wasn’t the only significant person in Finn’s life.

June’s friendship with Finn’s partner, Toby, starts tentatively and gradually deepens, as they both share a common grief. They connect through stories about Finn’s life, his art, and the depth of their love for Finn.

I listened to Mozart’s Requiem while I was reading, its intensity, ebbs and flows so much like real life, and I understand why it was so meaningful to June and Finn. Because I was thinking of my friend Mark, his passion for life that matched Finn’s, and the devastation I felt when he died, I couldn’t help but find the Requiem overlaid by one of Mark’s favorite songs, Guns in the Sky.

Now that I’ve returned this book to the library, I’m feeling a little lonely and sad. I need to have my own copy to highlight meaningful passages and relive those intense feelings. I was a little surprised this was not on the YA shelf at the library. It deals with many adult themes, but the hurt, pain, and love pouring from its pages is beautiful and heartbreaking and will stay with you, regardless of your age. I strongly recommend it to all my young friends. This is easily one of my favorite books.

Updated 10/8/13

I now have my own signed copy!

 photo 89bd42b8-2407-49d3-8b70-6eb707729a7a_zpsaed1cad2.jpg
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 4, 2022

I take one one one cause you left me and
Two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my lonely and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything

this book is everything everything everything everything. i don't even know where to start.

you book-criers?? this is for you. i didn't, naturally, but god how i wanted to. this is the most poignant and tender book, full of real (i.e., not schmaltzy manipulative nicholas sparks-style) emotional pull.

its focus is june, a fourteen-year-old girl who is a character uncomfortable in her own reality. she would rather live in the middle ages, when magic and science were still intertwined, where the world was hushed and yet majestic. where the forest could envelop and shut out all problems. unfortunately, she lives in westchester in the 80's, and her beloved uncle has just died of AIDS.

june is a tremendous character. and so lovingly written. you feel everything she feels: her confusion and her loss and her strength even when she doesn't realize how strong she is being just by going to school and not giving a shit about what her peers think of her in her medieval boots and long skirts. because they are not important. all she cared about in the world was her uncle, and the times they shared listening to the requiem and drinking tea and going to the cloisters and endlessly creating worlds around themselves to the exclusion of all else, including june's sister greta, with whom she used to be extremely close.

after finn's death, june is shattered, and no one understands the depths of her pain. until someone does. until june begins to learn about other facets of her uncle's life and meets someone who understands perfectly well the empty space finn's death has left, and the long slow journey towards healing starts with one step, a teapot, and a painting.

first novel? how is this possible?

there are so very many passages here that i just wanted to eat up. this whole book is just perfect. every character, every moment of clarity, every petty jealous thought and hasty act. every moment when june takes a step back to really see what she has been misinterpreting or overlooking, every confession, every moment she spends with her parents... she is just a marvel of a character.

if things went my way, i would be working at a renaissance fair as a falconer. i wouldn't have to worry about climbing career ladders or getting promotions, because falconry's not like that. either you're a falconer or you're not. either the birds come back to you or they fly away.

both of her parents are accountants, which means that during tax season, when the events of the novel take place, she and her sister are "tax orphans," taking care of themselves while her parents work long and exhausting hours and are not around to help her through her grief.

when her father comes home one evening, tired and sick and worked to the bone:

"well, why do you do it, then?"

i meant it seriously.i really wondered why people were always doing what they didn't like doing. it seemed like life was a sort of narrowing tunnel. right when you were born, the tunnel was huge. you could be anything. then, like, the absolute second after you were born, the tunnel narrowed down to about half that size. you were a boy, and already it was certain that you wouldn't be a mother and it was likely you wouldn't become a manicurist or a kindergarten teacher. then you started to grow up and everything you did closed the tunnel in some more. you broke your arm climbing a tree and you ruled out being a baseball pitcher. you failed every math test you ever took and you canceled any hope of being a scientist. like that. on and on through the years until you were stuck. you'd become a baker or a librarian or a bartender. or an accountant. and there you were. i figured that on the day you died, the tunnel would be so narrow, you'd have squeezed yourself in with so many choices, that you just got squashed.

"why do i i do it?" my dad said. "that's a no-brainer. for you. for you and greta and your mother."

"oh," i said, suddenly feeling immensely sad that somebody would throw their whole life away just to make sure other people were happy.

i mean, that is gorgeous. and a coming-of-age realization that doesn't come across as trite and commonplace. and that last sentence will resonate after you finish the book. no doubt.

there are so many more passages here that i want to type out, but i think you should just read the book. trust a karen on this one - this is a keeper. i borrowed this from work, but i am just going to buy it instead of returning it. i don't want anyone else touching this copy. this one is mine.

a note on the requiem. i spent about 20 minutes digging out my copy of it before sitting down to write this review, i rarely listen to music anymore. but the requiem has to be one of the most perfect musical pieces ever, and it has always shattered me while buoying me up at the same time. and this book is positively dripping with it. it is the perfect musical accompaniment. and it reminded me that this exists:


which is a cover of part of the requiem that this band played at my store one time, (better than this recording) and i remember i was shelving, walking across the floor with some books, and as soon as i realized what i was listening to, i dropped everything i was holding and just stood there, mesmerized. it is kind of a fantastic interpretation. the version i heard is on this podcast:


but i can't figure out how to ffwd to the song, which is the last one they played that night, so someone should do that for me, because i think that version is way superior.

but really - read this book, even though this review is completely inadequate at even coming close to what it did to me, you have to.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
February 6, 2013
5 Stars

This is my favorite read of the year so far in 2012. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is an incredible debut novel, a coming of age story that is masterfully told. Some will view this as a tragedy, as a story of loss and missed opportunities, a story about the hard truths about living. Others will see this as a tale of poignant beauty, a coming of age tale, and story that hits home on the greatest things of life. While it may really hit both spectrums that I just mentioned, it does so in a lyrical, poetic, and beautiful way. This book theme centers on death and it is magical in that it shows that at the end of the day everyone dies, but as the old cliché goes, not everyone truly lives. As June our main protagonist goes through her trials and tribulations, growing up as a 14 year old teenager, the book climaxes as she comes to understand more about herself and about life in general. We the readers are treated to the depth of the title ”Tell the Wolves I’m Home”.

First off, if plan on reading this book you should immediately download Mozart’s Requiem, his final composition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE2muD...). It will truly help you appreciate this novel. Mozart’s final masterpiece plays along and captures the beauty and complexity of young June’s life, and maybe a bit of yours too. This is a music piece about death’s door, about God’s deliverance, and about heaven and earth. At times it is simple in its quiet beauty and at others it is harsh and aggressive and all the while it is deep and complex. So too is this coming of age story about a young teenage girl named June. When the lyrics of the song soar over the orchestra you cannot help but feel that you know these words that you feel them, and understand them to their deepest meaning, even though they are sung in Latin, a language that most cannot understand at all. The vocals are magnificent and powerful and they capture the beauty told to us in this wonderful tale. They parallel the stories, and they show depth and complexity.

“The Requiem was a secret between me and Finn. Just
the two of us. We didn’t even need to look at each
other when he put it on. We both understood. He’d
taken me to a concert at a beautiful church on 84th
Street once and told me to close my eyes and
listen. That’s when I first heard it. That’s when I
first fell in love with that music.”

Let me talk a little about the characters in this novel. It all starts and center around an amazing young girl named June Elbus. At her heart June is a romantic.

    [roh-man-tik] Show IPA
1.of, pertaining to, or of the nature ofromance;
characteristic or suggestive of theworld of romance:
a romantic adventure.
2.fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romanticideas.
3.imbued with or dominated by idealism, adesire for
adventure, chivalry, etc.
4.characterized by a preoccupation with love orby
the idealizing of love or one's beloved.
5.displaying or expressing love or strongaffection.”

““A romantic, you barnacle, not lovey-dovey
romantic.” He leaned over like he was about to nudge
my shoulder with his, but then he pulled away.
“What’s the difference?” I asked cautiously.
“Being a romantic means you always see what’s
beautiful. What’s good. You don’t want to see the
gritty truth of things. You believe everything will
turn out right.”
I breathed out. That wasn’t so bad. I felt the blood
ease away from my face.
“Well, what about you?” I dared to ask Finn. “Are you
a romantic?””

June has a secret, a huge secret that she believes that no one knows…you see, June is in love with her uncle, her uncle Finn, a homosexual adult that is dying of AIDS. For all 14 plus years June does everything in her power to see her uncle, to be with him, and to keep him for herself. She is ashamed of her feelings, of her wants, and her needs, but cannot be sorry for them. The theme of this book is her growth and development and the understanding of her own self and place. The following quote could be a small spoiler but defines it well…

“And then I thought something terrible. I thought
that if Finn were still alive, Toby and I wouldn’t
be friends at all. If Finn hadn’t caught AIDS, I
would never even have met Toby. That strange and
awful thought swirled around in my buzzy head. Then
something else occurred to me. What if it was AIDS
that made Finn settle down? What if even before he
knew he had it, AIDS was making him slower, pulling
him back to his family, making him choose to be my
godfather. It was possible that without AIDS I
would never have gotten to know Finn or Toby. There
would be a big hole filled with nothing in place of
all those hours and days I’d spent with them. If I
could time-travel, could I be selfless enough to
stop Finn from getting AIDS? Even if it meant I
would never have him as my friend? I didn’t know. I
had no idea how greedy my heart really was.”

Other notable characters are Toby, and Greta, and of course Finn via many backstories. These people make up all of June’s life and we are treated to fully realized characters that are very much people that you may know in real life too.

The magic of this book is revealed as June begins to open her eyes. Many great steps forward are made when unforeseen events occur, or when her mischievous behaviors lead to dire circumstances. June and Greta’s lives are changed irrevocably by the death of their uncle Finn and the subsequent events that follow his passing. The novel progresses through June telling us many stories about her and Finn, about her mother, and about her relationship with her older sister Greta. It is exciting to see the changes in her that telling these stories with Toby and with us do for her as a young adult growing up. Couple these fabulous snippets with Carol Rifka Brunt’s wonderful vocabulary and literary style, and you have one great piece of fiction. Brunt’s story telling borders on fairy tale style, and I loved it.

The ending of this novel is unforgettable. It will crack the hardest stone and melt the largest piece of ice and it will touch you in a way that you won’t soon forget. I loved it…I mean I really loved how the strings of this story were brought together and how they played out as a beautiful musical chord. The end of this book is sure to be a tissue grabbing moment for most. My favorite thing about this book is the fact that this story moved me, I will remember it clearly for a long time and I am truly glad that I read it. It is a must read for literary fans and for anyone that appreciates great writing.

This was my favorite read of 2012.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.7k followers
July 12, 2020
i can probably count on two hands the number of books that have made me cry - it doesnt happen often. so when a story causes me to tear up, i know its immediately going to go on my favourites list.

this is such a bittersweet story. its a tenderly told coming-of-age tale about a girl who finds herself after losing someone very important to her. its a story of first loves, sisterly bonds, hard truths, and developing acceptance.

i honestly cant express the extent of my love for finn, june, and toby. it feels as if they nestled right into my heart and made it impossible for me to not care about them and not get emotional at how their lives played out. i could have easily read another 300 pages about them. thank goodness rereads are socially acceptable. <3

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Benjamin.
656 reviews
January 30, 2013
There's this trend of young-adult (themed) novels for them to be predicated on the concept of the child main character being this misunderstood wunderkind that thinks they are universally disliked when in fact they are loved by everyone. It's terribly boring and terribly indulgent. I think it's not a necessary evil or fact of the genre, but just something that occurs as a result of ham fisted characterisation and writing.

There are good elements to this book—it explores complex and overwhelming relationships between people in a clever way. It, I think, does a very good job of capturing a socio-cultural point of time.

I think it starts to fall down when it tries to become too profound and instead feels mawkish and overdone. The emotional journey the main character undertakes feels predictably on-rails. I think if the book took comfort in a certain superficiality rather than tried to really get to the core of deep, dark emotions it would have been much better. It's a spork book, when I would have been much more happy with either a spoon or a fork.

I think you really have to ignore the first page of Goodreads reviews—they are overwhelmingly extreme in their opinions. This book attempts to be beautiful, heart wrenching and so on but it really isn't. It's a decent story with good writing, not this fantastic, vital book.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,453 reviews7,567 followers
May 19, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

The year is 1987 and June has just lost the most important person in her life to AIDS. After the death of her Uncle Finn, June makes an unlikely friend and learns some hard truths about her family and herself.

Please note you will NOT get me to change my opinion, so if you just loveloveloved Tell the Wolves I’m Home and can’t understand how anyone could not – you should probably move along. I know I have chosen the road less taken, but I have to own up to the fact that I did not like this book. At all. I think the only reason it received the hype it did was that Carol Rifka Brunt made it take place at the onset of the AIDS crisis. If Finn died of just plain old cancer, no one would have given two shits about this novel. If you liked it, more power to you. As for me, my 1 Star rating, and this review????

Every moment in this book felt forced. Rather just saying we’re in 1986/87, the issue is pushed with horrible “product placement” type announcements that are completely unnecessary (i.e., “the Rubix cube on the dresser”, or “wax on/wax off”, or “Tiffany’s new remake of an old classic – “I Think We’re Alone Now” – playing on the radio." The only thing missing was June walking in wearing her “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt). Rather than writing a story about familial relationships and how they can disintegrate so easily, the AIDS crisis has been pushed to the forefront as the excuse for bad behavior. Rather than letting June be devastated when her favorite person in the world dies (or making June’s character younger and experiencing “first love” with her uncle), instead we deal with a 14 year old and a type of love that pushes toward perversion rather than adoration. I realize (again) that I have taken a very unpopular opinion. But you know what?

I can’t remember reading a book where I liked the characters less than this. June is an idiot, Greta is a bully, the mother is a bitch, the father is absentee. The only person I wanted to know anything about was Toby. I want to read Toby’s story. I want to know everything about him in great detail. His childhood, how he fell in love with Finn, how he dealt with having AIDS back when even the President of the United States wouldn’t dare mention the name, what it felt like to get diagnosed with an illness that meant everyone would be terrified of you, and how he managed to survive losing the love of his life. Toby’s story is one that needs to be told – just not by Carol Rifka Brunt. She’d only fuck it up and make it dirty and horrible.

If you loved this book, I’m happy for you and please know I really wanted (expected) to as well. Sadly, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. This is my honest review and

Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,419 followers
November 12, 2012
The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible. ~Tell the Wolves I'm Home
I don't know how to write a review for this book. I've made a few false starts already. It's always SO HARD to review the exceptional, the beautiful, the sincere and heartfelt. When what you've just read humbles you, when it so keenly reminds you of the raw power of storytelling -- of why we read in the first place -- it can leave you floundering without any words to describe the experience (a cruel irony if there ever was one).

I have no words, or I feel like I don't have enough, or know the right ones to use to capture the intensity and sweetness of Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Like Mozart's Requiem, it's meant to be experienced. It's the really funny joke that "you had to be there" to find funny at all.

I can tell you it's a coming of age story that hits all the right notes regarding that excruciating, confusing transition between childhood and adulthood, from innocence to innocence lost. June is fourteen and bright and funny and loveable, but also fierce and stubborn and selfish. She's prideful and lacks confidence, while at the same time marches to the beat of her own romantic drum. She's learning to love, not just perfection, but flaws and failures -- discovering that real beauty, real love, has scars and history, mistakes and disappointments.

There is so much character in this story -- not just June, but her sister Greta, their beloved uncle Finn, and his beloved Toby. Each character is whole with lives and souls to call their own. Their voices are distinct, their points of view crystalline and unique. It makes you care, it makes you feel and cry, and sigh and laugh out loud.

There's also a sense of place -- a time really -- that's so vivid it acts as a powerful subtext to the entire novel. June is growing up in the 1980's while her uncle is dying from AIDS. We remember the music, the clothes, the movies and that makes us smile. But then we remember the ignorance and fear, the prejudice and cruelty -- as much a part of the disease as its auto-immune deficiency -- and we weep. Toby and Finn, with genuine humanity, symbolize the tragic loss of so many young men in the early days of AIDS, before anyone really understood what was happening, before anyone had the courage to do anything about it when they finally knew exactly what was happening.

Ultimately, this book is about profound loss and the giant grief that accompanies it. It's about finding yourself in that loss, and then finding your way through it. If you've been there, you know. There are no shortcuts. It is what it is and it's you and it. But if we're lucky, if we're really lucky, there will be someone beside us to hold our hand, to pull us in, to catch our tears, to guide us back to the land of the living.

This is an emotional story, but it is in no way maudlin or melodramatic. It could be that book, that smacks of manipulation and exploits tragedy for the big win. Tell the Wolves I'm Home is not that book. It is the very opposite of that book. I'm going to end this review with a Hemingway quote that I would like to dedicate to June and Greta and Finn and Toby. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
Profile Image for F.
294 reviews253 followers
November 6, 2017
I really liked this book. It was a fairly quick read. I found the relationship between the 2 sisters very believeable and very much like my own relationship with my older sister when we were kids.

I loved finding out more and more about uncle finn.

I felt June was very mature for her age and a good head on her shoulders.
Feel bad for her at parts too like admitting she was in love with her uncle.

The mum was an unlikable, self centered bitch.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books912 followers
November 14, 2019
Despite the buzz, I wasn't expecting much. The plot description--a cool uncle with AIDS inspires his niece to discover herself--sounded like a total bore. It sounded like something I'd have to pry my eyes open to finish. Glad I went against my gut, because it turned out to be just the opposite. I couldn't put it down!

Though this is her first novel, Brunt writes like a career veteran. Her prose is both simple and beautiful. It never gets in the way of the story and is only flowery when it counts. I lost myself in the lines from the first sentence. It’s one of those books where you forget you’re reading and just dissolve into the characters’ lives.

There’s a lot of art to appreciate, both literally and figuratively. Like a painting, Uncle Finn and AIDS is always there, in the background, shaping the characters, and maybe even observing them, but it's brilliantly designed this way to set-up a richly woven plot soaking in metaphor. There's certainly a direct story that is engaging throughout, but there’s also a second tier story hidden between the lines.

If you read carefully—and don’t worry, Brunt makes this easy to do—you can focus on the “negative space” and start to experience the multi-dimensional quality of the plot. I read a lot of books, and this is probably the most intricately woven novel I’ve ever come across that can be enjoyed in a mainstream, easy-reading sort of way.

[Update] I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since this was published! Where is Carol Rifka Brunt? No second book on the horizon yet. I know it’s got to be tough to deliver any sort of follow-up to this masterpiece, but I really hope she has more to share with the world. Tell the Wolves I’m Home remains on my personal list of Top 100 Books of All Time.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,465 reviews8,576 followers
August 27, 2012
When I finished this book, I felt overwhelmed. Like every bit of beautiful writing and bittersweet emotion had filled my heart and made it ready to burst. There are some books that you finish and think "thank goodness I'm a reader" or "thank goodness I got to read this one." Tell The Wolves I'm Home is one of those books, and easily the best book I've read in 2012.

It's not like the story was a loud one. Our fourteen-year-old protagonist, June Elbus, enjoys spending time in solitude or with her uncle Finn instead of hanging out with kids her age. She gets B's in school and has no tremendous talent like her sister, Greta. But she offers some of the keenest and most honest observations I've ever read.

I wasn't interested in drinking beer or vodka or smoking cigarettes or doing all the other things Greta thinks I can't even imagine. I don't want to imagine those things. Anyone can imagine things like that. I want to imagine wrinkled time, and forests think with wolves, and bleak midnight moors. I dream about people who don't need to have sex to know they love each other. I dream about people who would only ever kiss you on the cheek.

The plot centers on June's struggle to cope with her uncle Finn's death, which was due to AIDS. After receiving a letter from a mysterious man who claims to have had a connection with Finn as well, June decides to meet this person - thus causing a waterfall of events that could hopefully lead her to heal.

Every character felt like a real person. I am not exaggerating. This is my 400th review on Goodreads, and out of the 400 books I've read and reviewed, Tell The Wolves I'm Home definitely places in the top 5% for its characters. Like I said, June is not a perfect protagonist. Some readers may even hate her. But all of her feelings - her loneliness, her jealousy, her melancholy - made me want to tell her it would be okay and cry alongside her. Greta, her mom, and her dad each possessed bad personality traits, but by the end, after looking at the full and finished portrait of each character, I came to empathize with all of them.

The writing. Carol Rifka Brunt's writing possessed so much pulchritude, I don't think I can describe it. It wasn't bombastic or manipulative, rather, it was thoughtful and breathtaking. Read this:

I really wondered why people were always doing what they didn't like doing. It seemed like life was a sort of narrowing tunnel. Right when you were born, the tunnel was huge. You could be anything. Then, like, the absolute second after you were born, the tunnel narrowed down to about half that size. You were a boy, and already it was certain you wouldn't be a mother and it was likely you wouldn't become a manicurist or a kindergarten teacher. Then you started to grow up and everything you did closed the tunnel in some more. You broke your arm climbing a tree and you ruled out being a baseball pitcher. You failed every math test you ever took and you canceled any hope of being a scientist. Like that. On and on through the years until you were stuck. You'd become a baker or a librarian or a bartender. Or an accountant. And there you were. I figured that on the day you died, the tunnel would be so narrow, you'd have squeezed yourself in with so many choices, that you just got squashed.

This is one of the first books I'll reference when people doubt the power of realistic fiction. No vampires, no fallen angels, no magical realism - just a simple yet gargantuan story about a girl whose uncle died because of a horrid disease. Tell the Wolves I'm Home will whittle your heart down to nothing, and build it back up stronger than ever before.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews509 followers
April 12, 2014
Whoever wrote the book blurb should be shot…if it wasn’t for my wonderfully pushy friends I’d have passed and missed out on a fabulous book. There’s an honesty to Brunt’s writing, simple and restrained. Dealing with loss, illicit love, teenage angst & sibling rivalry you’d think it’d be grim but it’s not - pathos nicely balanced with gentle humour.
With resentment & envy pulling them apart Brunt portrays a family fracturing at the seams, then chooses the painting of a portrait to draw them back together – beautiful. It was the painting (and teaching me the meaning of ‘negative space’) that nailed it for me, that and the look back at AIDS. In the 80's it struck terror when it 1st reared its ugly head, ignorance and fear bought out the worst in people. Yet there’s no feeling of guilt to this – just the natural sadness of loss.
Told through June’s eyes, a 14 year old misfit who thinks she’s “a complete and total waste of space” who achieves self-confidence through caring about others instead of dwelling on herself. “I thought how there was a kind of power in being needed. I could feel it hardening up my bones and thickening my blood.” Worth reading for that…

Why read YA? Been there, done that… I didn’t till a year ago. As a reminder I guess, of what pure love felt like– for a best friend, a brother, a lover…Not saying I’d want to go through it again, thought I’d DIE after that 1st guy dumped me. (Ian was his name - the scunner) Makes sense to throw up SOME barriers. And yet, the passion’s still there just deeply repressed. YA novels a nudge - might not be such a bad idea to let it out once in a while for some fresh air:)

For the genre of young adult – 5 stars

“I used to think maybe I wanted to become a falconer, and now I’m sure of it, because I need to figure out the secret. I need to work out how to keep things flying back to me instead of always flying away”
Profile Image for Poonam.
605 reviews503 followers
April 15, 2017
Buddy Read with Murugesh

This is such a beautiful story, it touched my heart and also managed to break it into little pieces....

It is about June, a 14 year old who loses her godfather who is also her uncle and maybe her first love to AIDS.

This story is set in 1987 and during this time Aids was an unknown factor which people were very afraid of. This is one of the thoughts that June has before her uncle dies and she is spending some time with him knowing he isn't going to survive this.
"Yeah, but how do you know that the germs from a kiss can't seep in through the skin of your cheek? How can you be sure they can't somehow swim into your blood right through your open pores?" I didn't know. And I didn't want to die. I didn't want to turn gray.

But I can't really fault what June is feeling as she was just a kid and there was apparently so much hype and incorrect information passed on that even educated adults behaved stupidly.
'After that came a story about a judge in Yonkers who moved his whole courtroom out into the parking lot because the guy he was sentencing had AIDS. "Fresh air and sunshine," the judge said, talking about how he thought it was safer for the court staff not to be in a tight little courtroom with germs like that.'

It is about the complicated loving relation that June had with her Uncle Finn and about things that are lost in life that can never come back...
'Not only because Finn had never told me about this guy, but because there was no way to ask him about it. And until then I don't think I really understood the meaning of gone.'

This is a story about Toby- a lonely man and June- a weird adorable girl.
'Finn was right. I could tell. Toby had nobody. But it was okay. It was all sealed. He had me now.'

But then again this story is not only confined to them but also is about June and Greta, Finn and Dani, Dani and June....

This made me think about my life-partner and what I will do if I ever lose him. It made me think about my sibling and all the lovely childhood days that will never come back. And it made me cry, cry and cry thinking about all the injustice that life deals us with.
'What is it was enough to realize that you would die someday, that none of this would go on forever? Would that be enough?' - This can make you instantly sad when thinking of something happy and instantly glad if having depressing thoughts....

Some people may find this a slow story but according to me this is a story to be savored, read slowly and let the meaning of it all seep into you.
'If you always make sure you're exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won't care if you die tomorrow.'

Even writing this review is bringing back all the emotions I went through while reading this book. Grab a copy now and do not miss out on reading this one.
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,350 reviews821 followers
November 10, 2014
Bullet Review:

Unpopular opinion time!! I know a lot of people love this book (I don't think I have a single friend who hasn't rated this AT LEAST four stars), but this book is a perfect example of schlocky litfic:

1. A "quirky older than her age" protagonist who thinks she's ugly and unloved when she's clearly not.

2. Vile, dysfunctional, borderline abusive relationships within immediate family.

3. Someone who suffers and/or dies from cancer or a disease.

4. ANGST!!!

5. Characters that are meant to be sympathetic who come across instead as creepy.

6. Absentee parenting.

7. Scenes written for the sake of making you cry.


9. Deep Life Lessons learned from Art.


A shame, because I had a lot of hopes for this book.

On the bright side, a scene towards the end saved this from a 1 star rating. But not once was I EVER close to being in tears (I must be a robot or something), and often I found it a struggle to continue to wade through June's selfish, mopey pity-party.

Full Review:

June Elbus has a close relationship with her uncle, Finn, who is dying of AIDS. After his death, she is approached by Finn's "special friend" (boyfriend) and starts up a relationship without her parents' knowledge.

Also, her parents are too busy with tax season, her sister, Greta, is a b!tch, and June had a romantic crush on her uncle.

I should know better than to read lit fic. Time and time and time again I try to pick up one of these, and I end up depressed and pretty damned disappointed. This time was no different; my Book Club was choosing books and, based on the summary, I thought this would be pretty interesting. I lived in the 80's, but was very young, so I don't remember much of the AIDs epidemic. So the concept of the uncle's boyfriend meeting up with the niece to have a relationship was pretty cool.

I didn't realize though that the niece would be FOURTEEN. I didn't realize that the FOURTEEN-year-old niece would be approached by her uncle's boyfriend behind her parents' backs. I didn't realize that said boyfriend would then tell a FOURTEEN-year-old girl NOT TO TELL HER PARENTS about meeting him. And I didn't realize that the FOURTEEN-year-old girl would be able to run all over New York City to meet up with her uncle's boyfriend.

Because yeah, June is FOURTEEN when she's doing all this and Finn tells her explicitly NOT TO TELL HER PARENTS. Her parents (conveniently absent through most of the book, being preoccupied with "tax season") have no idea where June is; so if June just doesn't come home one night, no one would be able to say where she was or what she was doing.

I realize that in my own life, I was EXTREMELY sheltered (I basically didn't leave the house on my own until I started college at 18, and even then, it was straight to classes and back). But is it too much to ask for a FOURTEEN-year-old to give her parents an idea where she is? What's she's doing? Who she's hanging out with? I'm not talking umbilical cord, just an FYI? What kind of failure of parents are these that they NEVER ASK about where FOURTEEN-year-old June is during "tax season"?! What was life like BEFORE she was FOURTEEN? Did they frequently leave the two-year-olds in the play pen while they were busy with "tax season"?!

And I know Toby's not supposed to come across as creepy (at least, that's what I thought - a friend had the alternate idea that maybe that was the point). But a man, twice her age, approaching her (basically stalking - he does appear at her school one day and whisk her away to Playland) and saying, "Hey, let's hang out - only don't tell your parents. And how about you come down to the basement WHERE THERE IS A CAGE?" just doesn't sound on the up-and-up. I'm sorry, I want to like Toby, I want my heart to ache for him in his loss, but I just can't get over how an ADULT told a FOURTEEN-year-old to meet up and not tell her parents. I don't care your motivations, you don't tell children, CHILDREN, not to go to an authority figure. Children need to be protected; they are vulnerable. And I don't care that Toby has no one else, lost the love of his life, he shouldn't be stalking June and begging her to hang out with him all the while concealing that knowledge from her parents. She's FOURTEEN after all.

Other than Greta (and even that pushed my boundaries more than once), there were no characters I cared about. Most of the characters were pretty flat and unimpressive. June in particular was annoying; I absolutely despised her monologue (though I'll concede that part of this could be due to the obnoxious voice that the narrator used) about how awful her life is, how no one loves her, how she is the ONLY ONE to understand Finn and love him SO DAMN MUCH. I get it, she's FOURTEEN, she doesn't know better - except for when she has these miraculous insights (and can run around without parental knowledge??).

Greta is an awful sister; I would very much have loved to beat her over the head. Her behavior is bullying, pure and simple. It's appalling, honestly, how the parents have so little control over this abusive relationship (though this is not necessarily a fault of the author, more of a burst of outrage on my part for how realistic this can be). On the other hand, I totally understood why she behaved the way she did, and wanted to beat JUNE over the head for not getting it (so much for being so "smart" and "adult" June!!).

The parents were so bland and personality-less - of course, it's Mom's fault she has a bad relationship with Finn, because she's homophobic and jealous. Nothing about maybe Finn getting a bit too big of a head and thinking he's so much more important than she is.

Finn can do no wrong; he's a rich artist, which I'm not sure how that happened. Everyone loves his work; he devotes his time to help people in jail, and he probably also farts rainbows too.

As for Toby - I'm sorry, he's creepy. Like I said above, he approaches June, a FOURTEEN-year-old, and tells her not to tell her parents about him. I get he needs people and interaction, but it's also FRAKKIN' creepy to go around stalking FOURTEEN-year-olds and asking them to keep secrets from their parents.

When the story isn't about June whining about how awful her life is or how her parents are always busy, we have ANGST, ANGST, and MOAR ANGST. The book wallows in it, and honestly, it gets exhausting. There are points where I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to side with June, when I most certainly do not (such as when her parents find out about what she's done to the painting). And really, including AIDS and the deaths of a couple of characters just smart of your typical Lit Fic book - "see how Deep and Important and Dramatic I am!"

That said - I have a ENORMOUS amount of respect because of a scene towards the end of the book. Spoilers ahead.

This gave a LOT of nuance to the two characters, and DEFINITELY improved my opinion of the book - though I still never once was near tears over it.

To me, this book is an example of pretty much everything I dislike about reading in general and litfic in specific: flat, unlikeable, unrelatable characters, a story relying mostly on angst, and plot devices tossed in to make it "gritty" and "relevant" and generate some tears. BUT I am in the minority here; I am the only one of my friends to rate this lower than 4 stars. Many, many people have loved the book and what it means to them.

And you know what? That's really great. I'm glad people can look past the problems I had and love this. This book isn't like reading Dan Brown or Nicholas Sparks or EL James. There is a good moral, and the writing isn't terrible (though shame on Brunt for using the "I blushed so hard, I wanted to faint" Anita Blakism). It doesn't change my opinion, but I can attest that at least this litfic wasn't a complete waste of my time like some of my other forrays.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.7k followers
March 5, 2021
Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell The Wolves I'm Home is the debut novel of American writer Carol Rifka Brunt, published by Random House in 2012.

June Elbus is a 14-year-old girl living in Westchester in 1986. She is in love with her gay uncle, Finn Weiss, a fact she is scared to admit even to herself. Finn is dying of AIDS. Being a professional painter, he asks June and her elder sister Greta to sit for a portrait, which he completes a few days before his death.

At his funeral, June notices a stranger hanging around. She learns that he is Finn's boyfriend, Toby. She is warned against him by her family, particularly her mother, who forbids June from having any contact with him.

One day Toby delivers a message to June, asking her to meet him at a train station nearby. Although initially hesitant, she decides to meet him. They ride to Finn's apartment, where Toby now lives alone. He gives her some of Finn's possessions, which he left behind for her. One of these include a book with a message to June from Finn, asking her to take care of Toby, as he had nobody else.

Meanwhile, the media comes to know of the portrait, which Finn named "Tell the Wolves I'm Home". Recognizing its monetary value, June's mother moves it to a bank vault and gives the keys to June and Greta. June visits it often, and notices there are additions to the painting: black buttons on her shirt and a skull behind Greta's hand, which she realizes is drawn by Greta herself. June too paints on the portrait, adding streaks of golden to their hair. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دوم ماه می سال 2018میلادی

عنوان: به گرگها بگویید من خانه هستم؛ نویسنده: کارول ریفکا برانت؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

نخستین کتاب «کارول ریفکا برانت»، کتابی درباره ی روابط خانوادگی، غم از دست‌دادن نزدیک‌ترین‌ها و شکل گرفتن دوستی‌های تازه است؛ درباره حسادت، عاشق فرد اشتباهی شدن و درباره شکست و ناکامی؛ شاید کلیشه ‌ای به نظر برسد اما نیست؛ راوی داستان «به گرگ‌ها بگویید من خانه هستم» دختر نوجوانی چهارده ساله، و‌ خجالتی به نام «جون البوس» است، که دوستان نزدیک و صمیمی ندارد، او و خواهرش «گرتا»، که از او بزرگ‌تر است، با هم ‌سازگار نیستند؛ تنها دایی ‌او «فین وایس»، که نقاشی مشهور است، با او رابطه ای خوب، و دوستانه دارد، «جون» با دایی خویش راحت است، و در کنار او خود واقعی خویش است؛ «فین» محرم اسرار، و بهترین دوست اوست؛ اما «فین» هم، در حال مرگ است؛ او هم ایدز دارد؛ و پیش از مرگ خویش، می‌خواهد پرتره ای از «جون» و «گرتا» نیز، بکشد؛ نقاشی ‌ای که «فین» کشیده، نقش مهمی در این داستان دارد؛ عنوان کتاب، از همین نقاشی، برگرفته شده است؛ «جون» در مراسم خاکسپاری، متوجه مردی می‌شود، که در پس و پشت مردمان ایستاده، و نزدیک نمی‌شود؛ چند روز پس از آن،«جون» بسته ‌ای دریافت می‌کند، که قوری قشنگی از آپارتمان «فین» است؛ نامه ‌ای هم در بسته هست، در آن مردی غریبه خواهان دیدار با «جون» می‌شود؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,954 followers
August 23, 2013
It's the most unhappy people who want to stay alive, because they think they haven't done everything they want to do.

My thoughts and reactions have always been mixed when it comes to books which take the reader on a reflective stroll. Fast-paced would never come to mind, nor would action-packed. Words like "slow" and "quiet" tend to fall more in line with these types of reads. All too often, I find myself wondering what I've gotten myself into when I pick up books such as these. Just about every single time, I think I might not end up liking the book because the story tends to meander along by taking the scenic route instead of getting right to the point. But then sure enough, by the time I reach the end, I wind up glad that I took the journey.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home is set in the 1980's, during a time when AIDS education was minimal and truth was scarce (and girls like me were still using Sun-In to wreck their hair). People were still afraid of the unknown. While moments of fear were touched upon, the tone of the story had less to do with fear of a disease, and more to do with the fear of moving on after loss.

The intro chapters of TTWIH made me a little nervous. At first, the writing style read somewhat like a memoir (which would be fine if it was a memoir, but not so much for fiction) and I almost made the decision to quit out. I didn't think I was going to be able to hang with an entire book of "memories" about a person who was no longer present.

Thankfully, after a few memory recaps in order to set up the main character's mindset, the story decided to travel along and move forward from the past as much as possible. While the past was never far from the surface, it was something which shaped the characters into who they were now, instead of being the sole weight of the story.

Was I ever surprised when I realized that the entire crux of the plot was going to revolve around a young teenager and her tentative time spent with the surviving boyfriend of her dead uncle (not a spoiler; he's gone from the start of the book). Odd couple? Absolutely. Yet, somehow it worked.
What if everything I loved about Finn had come from Toby?

These two characters needed each other in order to move on. In learning to lean on one another, they both discovered their individual value as people.
Please promise to take the very best care of my only girl. With so much love my heart might split in two...

I was probably one of the rare few who didn't cry while reading this book, but I was still inspired and left emotional by the characters' interactions with each other. Books like this continue to remind me to appreciate what we have while we have it, and to remember to say what we need to say while we still can.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,343 reviews703 followers
October 15, 2022
I LOVE this book. It's a coming of age book, in the eyes of a 14 year old girl in 1987. She finds out her favorite Uncle is gay and has AIDS. She has a conflicted relationship with her sister who seems to be "the perfect one". She, June, finds out that her Uncle had a boyfriend who her family shuns. As she struggles to grow up, find her place in the world, see her family for who they are, see all the struggles in the world she finds love in unlikely places; she becomes forgiving and understanding. This book made me cry, it's so awesome. I hope Brunt writes more books
Profile Image for Kristalia .
384 reviews611 followers
October 5, 2015
Final rating: 5/5 stars


Second: My heart is shattered into million pieces.

I was surprised when i saw that this book was shelved as glbt. I didn't expect it though, but now that i have read this book, it makes more sense. It's a passive glbt story. But i highly recommend to everyone to read this one, because it's such emotional roller coaster . I cried in almost every chapter, because most of things that happened were just unfair.

The story is about a girl - June - who is struggling to find her own place in people's hearts. She does not have any friends of her own age, she thinks that her sister Greta hates her, and their parents don't give them any necessary attention. The only person who ever saw her as herself, and who loved her, made her smile and cry, was her uncle and godfather Finn. But, fate had other plan for Finn, given that he contracted AIDS. He is dying and June is painfully aware of it. And she thinks her world is shattered when he passes away, until someone shows that she is not the only one who truly cared for Finn.

My mother said it [dying] was like a cassette tape you could never rewind. But it was hard to remember you couldn’t rewind it while you were listening to it. And so you’d forget and fall into the music and listen and then, without you even knowing it, the tape would suddenly end.

That someone is Toby - Finn's "secret" lover. June's mother hates him with passion, thinking that it was his fault that Finn died because of AIDS. And, the thing is - June didn't even knew that he existed. But he is the only person beside her that knew as much as she did about Finn. And then....they begin to meet each other.

“Finn didn’t even seem to care that he was dying,” I said. And it was true. Finn was as calm as ever right up to the very last time I saw him.
“Don’t you know? That’s the secret. If you always make sure you’re exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won’t care if you die tomorrow.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. If you were so happy, then you’d want to stay alive, wouldn’t you? You’d want to be alive forever, so you could keep being happy.”
“No, no. It’s the most unhappy people who want to stay alive, because they think they haven’t done everything they want to do. They think they haven’t had enough time. They feel like they’ve been shortchanged.”


Characters :

There are four main characters in this story: June (the narrator), Greta (June's sister), Finn (their uncle and June's godfather) and Toby (Finn's lover). Each one of them was very complex character, including Finn who died early in the story, but we find about him more in the memories of the people who loved him.

June is the main character of this story. She is 14 year old girl who is desperate to find someone who understands her. She did find someone, that special person, and it was Finn. His dying struck her hard because she thought that she will have no one else who would truly understand her in that way Finn did. He was to her more than anyone else ever was. In a way, i understand her, because for a long time, i didn't have anyone either. And then, one person changed my life, and that person is now gone. But, then you understand that your life is not defined by just one person, but by others as well. And that is what she needed the most, even though she didn't say it with words, she wanted someone to care for her and to be with her. And most of all - she needed more memories of Finn, and there is only one person who could have given her all of that. And it was Toby. When she began meeting with him, she mentally hurt him on more occasions, and some of those times, she did it on purpose. That is what i disliked about her the most. But toward the end of the book, she got better, and i started to like her.

Greta is the agressive, reckless, angry, sarcastic and mean. But, inside, she was never like that. She just wanted some attention from her own sister, who spent more time with their Uncle than she did with Greta. And that hurt her deeply. Because of that she began to hate both Finn and June, because they were never around when she needed them. She just wanted to her sister back to her, but she didn't know how to achieve that. And that put her in a lot of situations that turned out more harmful than good.

Finn is a well respected artist, but he quit showing his paintings a long time ago. Before he died, he made a final piece - a picture of Greta and June and called it "Tell the wolves i'm home". Just that picture showed how much Finn loved them both, and that picture has a great deal of influence in the story. It is as important as it's characters. We find a lot about him from the stories Finn and June tell each other.

Toby is the shadow - no one seems to be noticing him. June didn't even know that he existed. Her mother hates him with passion and blames him for "killing" Finn, her only brother. But as the story goes, you notice that there is more to him than it seems, and he is the true gem of this story. Without him, this story wouldn't be as much as heartbreaking as it was. He loved Finn so much - he truly loved him, and to him Finn was his world. Without Finn, he would once again be no one and nobody. But June changes that when she comes into his life,as much as he comes into hers.

“I just thought, maybe we’re supposed to try to, you know, move on,” I said.
Toby glanced up. I thought he’d looked older when I saw him earlier, but now, without the coat, he seemed younger. Shrunk down to nothing. He cocked his head and stared at me with a puzzled expression.
“But where would we move to?”


Overall :

This story was just so beautiful, so heartbreaking and so emotional. Like i said before, almost every chapter made me cry, and the end of the book made me cry a river. But it was worth every tear and every sad feeling that i had while reading it. The magic of this book was that i could connect with every character, to truly understand them.

Excuse me while i go cry in the corner, because, even though i have read it hours ago, i still think about this book, and i still feel like crying.

And for the end:

“You think there are second chances? Do you? Well, there aren’t. They dart right by, and before you know it . . . before you even know what’s happened they’re just a blur in the distance. And then what? Then what are you supposed to do?

Go read this book. Now.

This review can be found on my blog: infinity-of-time.blogspot.com also known as...
Profile Image for Nicole.
732 reviews1,841 followers
May 13, 2021
I’ve been cleaning up my word docs and I found a few reviews that I never posted on GR. I read this book 2 years ago but better late than never... Also, I still remember my disappointment...

Before you read this review, I should warn you. It might look spoilery but it actually isn’t. You see the whole book was “stagnant”, except for the end.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the most disappointing book I’ve read this year so far. I was honestly expecting a paranormal story first because of the title, then I read that it’s shelved as contemporary right before starting this book. I had wrong expectations altogether, especially since I try to avoid reading the synopsis whenever I can. However, even then, I didn’t lower my expectations much since Goodreads was overflowing with positive reviews.

June’s uncle, Finn, is about to die from AIDS. She has always looked up to him and even fell in love with him. Her sister Greta is always acting so mean and rude with her. She doesn’t have friends and isn’t interested in making any. Finn has been her whole world up until, one day, he dies. He leaves someone she never but knew all about her. Toby, his boyfriend, has been kept apart from her for several reasons one of which is him being the cause of Finn’s death according to her mother. She starts meeting with Toby secretly and bit by bit the way she thinks will change, and she’ll see her life in a different perspective.

Let’s start with the only thing I liked. The book dealing with AIDS. I don’t think I’ve read one that directly mentions AIDS and surely not one of the MCs is a victim. That earned the book some credits. This subject should stop being taboo in books because it’s real life. There were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2016 (according to WHO). The problem is real and I hope more authors reach out and talk about it. Writing about AIDS in a YA contemporary is a very good start. Teenagers can be hugely affected by it and authors can write a story to entertain the public all while delivering a message and raising awareness about this epidemic.

Now, back to the plot, it was tedious. It bored me to tears. I didn’t care about the characters except for Toby (a bit). Greta was a bitch and even though we understand why at the end of the book, I still hate what she did before. The characters in this book are flawed. Sometimes that makes the story interesting, other times it makes it worse. This book’s case was the latter. Almost nothing was happening throughout the book.

Contemporary is honestly one of my least favorite genres. And this book is one of the reasons why. I just couldn’t finish it so much that I had to continue with the audiobook with x2 speed. The ending is the best part about that book but is it worth going through all that boredom? Sadly no. People shouldn’t have to endure a plot where almost nothing happens just to reach a conclusion that is only good in comparison with the rest of the book.

I wanted to know more about Finn’s and Toby’s relationship. However, June’s adoration with Finn became too much for me to bear. It’s just she’s 14 yo and doesn’t realize how wrong that is. She isn’t supposed to be stupid anymore, but she is. She’s supposed to know better. This was a very minor issue I had with this book and didn’t affect my rating at all. I just wanted to mention it nonetheless.

It’s a story about June’s daily life trying to deal with her uncle’s death and family issues, school, friends (or the lack thereof), and her uncle’s boyfriend. Don’t expect lots of action. Don’t expect a page turning book. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then you might like it. it’s just not mine.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
917 reviews13.9k followers
January 14, 2023
I was waiting and waiting for this book to get good.... but it stayed pretty steadily okay throughout. I appreciated this because I've never read anything set in the 80s that addresses AIDS, so understanding what it was like from the lens of the family was interesting. But although I enjoyed this book I just wasn't wowed by it and didn't feel like it dug very deep on any of its topics. And the whole idea that she was in love with her uncle and she could relate to her uncle's boyfriend because they both had forbidden love was just.... strange. I'm disappointed because I've seen lots of 5 stars for this and I was recommended it on the basis that it would make me sob but I ended up not even shedding a tear. Womp womp.
Profile Image for Philip.
502 reviews673 followers
November 23, 2016
4ish stars.

An emotionally-charged, fairly well-written novel evocative of the joys and pains of growing up.

Brunt gives us some unconventional characters (June, a socially-awkward teenager in love with her gay uncle who has AIDS, and Toby, her uncle's boyfriend who some have labelled "creepy" as he desperately tries to form a bond with June). Sure June makes some stupid decisions, and Toby is kind of strange, but they don't deserve to be given voices any less than Finn, the aforementioned uncle who is an artistic genius and all-around interesting, compassionate, perfect uncle, or Greta, June's sister who is a musical star and all-around clever, smart, typical older sister. Even so, Greta especially provides some surprises late in the game and even the supporting characters (their parents, a boy from school interested in June) are pretty interesting and occasionally reveal surprising depth.

Brunt also paints a decent portrait of New York in the mid-1980s in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. She admirably conveys the attitudes and misconceptions held by people at the time. Other than that, a strong sense of setting is largely absent except for passing mentions of various then-current events.

June's narrating voice is inconsistent and wrought with faux-deep wisdom at odds with her 14-year-old actions even if it does make for a lot of lovely, quotable proverbs. The plot builds slowly from an archetypal coming-of-age beginning to a satisfyingly stirring finale. The fourth star is really because the book elicited such an emotional response from me. Not gonna lie, I came pretty close to crying several times. :'(
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews525 followers
January 23, 2013
I have been having a difficult time writing this review. There I said it. Mostly, I think, because this story touched my inner bits. I did not anticipate that, nor did my soft, little underbelly. It is a sad story and I know and confess that for years and years I avoided these kinds of things, I was looking for happy, shiny thoughts, not this, so it is funny then, that it has also brought back memories of the very best chapters of my life.

I don’t even know where to begin.

This book read me.

It is strong and tender, quietly whispering, gently hovering; it tells you things you already knew, but needed to hear, out loud.

It is a book of sorrow and regret,love and hope, the real, inner voice stuff.

This book is beautiful but, more than that, well beyond that……… it is also surprisingly joyful and deeply evocative. I was left gasping and glowing in it's aftermath.

It is not my book, at all really, but my daughter’s and she will likely think I read it in the rain or snow, but those are just my tears. Prolific tears, who knew.

I first heard about this from karen, whose review convinced me to read it, thank you! I shall, however always associate this incredible work with my daughter Arah-Leah, whose very book, I hold within my hands and who lives within the very best chapters of my life.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews54 followers
August 9, 2013
4.5 Rating!

I just finished reading this story--(didn't want to stop) ---so I kept on reading 'before' my normal early morning exercise (walk,yoga, spin, or 'something').

Then...I also just noticed there are 'many' already High rating reviews --(a few low ones)...
A few readers thought this book might be better as a Young Adult read.

I WAS fully engaged with this story --(yet its not without flaws)...

My reason for the high rating was 'pure-involvement' ---I was invested --and I was thinking --I was touched --I also 'questioned' a few things a few things which were pretty off base ---(but kept forgiving them)...

There are main characters --and supporting characters!
There is a dominate theme --yet there is many 'sub' themes!

I could find much to discuss about with others....(always a good sign of a Fiction book)...

Overall: I liked it!!!

I pulled a couple of quotes from the book (I haven't seen these in other reviews --so I'll post them)....

As they 'both' leave the reader with something to very authentic (as human beings), with thoughts to think about ---(if we are being honest). I am NOT giving away a thing in the story.

1) "If You were happy, then you would want to stay alive, wouldn't you? You'd want to be alive forever, so you could keep being happy."
"No, no. It's the most unhappy people who want to stay alive, because they think they haven't done everything they want to do. They think they haven't had enough time. They feel like they've been short changed".

2) "I knew the way hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they'd be."

Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews390 followers
August 13, 2013
I am not a reader that willing walks into a tear jerker or an emotionally evocative book knowingly. Why? I am silly sensitive person that gets completely enmeshed in the world created by writers and I can’t let go of that world once I am in it. I walked into Tell The Wolves I’m Home understanding that it was a powerful book dealing with death and grief, but I was not prepared for how it would affect me. The thing I forget about books that make me cry are that those books, when done right and written by talented authors, also make me hope. Tell the Wolves I’m Home left me with hope and filled with a feeling of love for those close to me.

Perhaps having grown up during the 1980s and remembering the scare of AIDS during that time period as well, brought the book much closer to my heart. Ms. Rifka Brunt writes about the late 1980s as if it was now, not that she misses the ambience and the cultural differences but what I mean, is that she writes about the 1980s without exaggeration and too much nostalgia. The 1980s just are in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, the era gives further depth to the story but the era itself is not raised to a heightened level.

At the center of the story is a young girl June, who ranges in age from 12 to 14 in the book, that is an odd ball. Like many teens she feels awkward in her body and socially awkward in her high school. She prefers to run to the woods beyond her house and pretend and imagine. Through her play she transports herself back to the medieval period and becomes someone new. Brunt writes so well that beautiful time when we could so easily trick our minds we were somewhere else and the transition to when we can no longer do this because we know the real world too well.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home dances around the themes of sibling relationships between adults (June’s mom and her uncle) and during the process of growing up (June’s relationship with her older sister Greta). Anyone with siblings knows that these relationships can be wonderful and rewarding, but may be really challenging and hurtful. Along the path of these relationships, life happens and can alter how siblings treat each other for life. Can siblings change? Will they remain close? Tell the Wolves I’m Home opens the relationships up for the readers to see. June’s relationship with her sister Greta drove me to tears more than once, man Brunt captured the pain sisters can cause each other. She wrote perfectly, the pain and jealousy siblings feel not only for each other but because they miss how they were as children.

Not to be forgotten, are themes of ostracization and fear. AIDS was relatively new in the late 1980s and the fear was ripe — so was the embarrassment of association. Sometimes it takes the heart and naiveté of a child to over come that fear and reach out to those that need it.

This book has everything and just needs to be read. I can be a skimmer, but I did not skim one word in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, rather I would reverse and re-read passages again and again. It is an amazing first novel by a brilliant author that I will be watching and waiting for her next effort.

I highly recommend this book.

To read more of this review and others like it check out: www.badassbookreviews.com
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
875 reviews1,763 followers
August 6, 2017
this book deals with the sensitive subject of AIDS and that too in 1980s. what makes in charming and heartbreaking is that it is told from the PoV of a 12 year old. A crucial point in a kid's life. it is at this time that anything can go wrong, or somethings can happen that the kid learns how hard life is, and how one should face the hard times and bitter truths, and stay calm. Or be a rebellion, and let the darkness take over you.

Junes Elbus is struggling with the death of her uncle Finn. He died of AIDS and June is having a hard time. One of the thing that June came to accept after his death was that she was in love with her uncle. When he was alive, Finn always treated her with affection; she was his favorite. After his death, June thought she lost the reason to be alive and wrap herself in a cocoon where no one could disturb her. But fate had other plans.

this story explores the beautiful friendship between Junes and Toby, the depth of loneliness of Greta (June's elder sister), and June's mother's sadness on being left behind by the sibling whom she loved with all her heart.

it just broke my heart how the author showed all these emotions. Parents teach their kids to stay away from certain people because they think its bad for their kids to get mix up with these kind of people. But what if they're the best friends your kid can have? Certainly no one can know what goes through a mind, but blaming someone for all the miseries in your life is not a good thing, especially when somewhere you're trying to run away from your own mistakes and expectations. So talking to kids always helps and vice versa.

One of the best aspect of this book is friendship. be it June and Toby or June and Greta. While June and Toby's friendship seem carefree and easygoing, it's Greta and June's friendship that took my breath away. It was so complex. Greta loved her sibling with all her heart but the little sister somewhere left Greta thinking that she no more needs her. But how wrong she was! At one time both simply stopped showing emotion for each other, there was so much envy and anger. When in the end it comes all out, it was mesmerizing to see both of these girls together, taking care of each other.

It is a lovely story dealing with love, passion, sadness, angst, and friendship. I would not have picked it for myself had Srividya not recommended it to me so strongly.
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,199 followers
December 9, 2012
I enjoyed every bit of this book!

June is a fourteen year old girl who is kind of on the quirky side. She feels like she doesn’t belong to her time and imagines she’s in the middle ages, she wears medieval boots given to her by her uncle Finn. She also has talent for visual art, but she doesn’t quite believe it.

Finn is dying from AIDS when the virus was new and little was known about it. He’s a famous New York artist, and before he dies he wishes to paint a portrait of his nieces, June and Greta. Greta is a sixteen year old who is advanced a grade because she is too smart for her own good, and musically talented. But she’s as mean as a snake to June and takes every opportunity to hurt her sister she can get.

Toby is Finn’s boyfriend of nine years who has been hidden away from the sisters by their mother (Finn’s sister) and father because they don’t know him, and don’t wish to get to know him. Toby is also has AIDS and forms a friendship with June after her beloved uncle Finn passes away from the disease. This is not easy for June, because she believed she was the only person close to Finn.

I can relate with Tell the Wolves I’m Home, especially with the character June. I grew up the odd middle child with a popular, smart older sister who was (and is) as mean as a snake. In Greta’s case, it turns out she has a heart. My sister? Not so much, the older she gets the crueler she gets. I make my living as a visual artist, I have a brother who is gay and has been with his partner for fourteen years. I love his partner as much as any brother and I cannot imagine him being hidden away and never knowing him.

How very sad that would be.

This is a very touching, coming of age book.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
686 reviews3,640 followers
September 5, 2015
4.5/5 stars.
I finished this book really fast because it was so good and nothing like I expected. I knew that it was going to be a story about AIDS, but I didn't know that it was told from a child's perspective which - in my opinion - gave the story so much more depth. 14-year-old June is very observant and has the most amazing views on life, but she is also very naive and only gradully realizes what has really been going on with Finn, her beloved uncle who suffers from AIDS. When Finn dies (this happens in the beginning and is no spoiler), June learns more and more of the truth and brings the readers with her on her journey of discovery.
I don't think I've ever underlined as many phrases as I did in this book. Every second page there seemed to be a beautiful line or an interesting observation on life, or just a curious anecdote from June's life. I loved it, and these hidden but multiple gems kept my interest peaked. Another thing I fell absolutely in love with was the comfy and safe family life we get in this story. June is loved by her family, and even though she feels secluded from everyone, you can feel the family love through the pages. I loved reading about snowy days with cocoa and late night with Trivial Pursuit. It all added to June's narrative voice and sometimes naive, however curious observations on life.
This is a beautiful story about how one person can change your life completely. It is also a story about how AIDS was perceived when the disease first became well-known and acknowledged in the 1980s. If you like stories à la "To Kill a Mockingbird" told from a child's perspective, I cannot recommend this book enough. It definitely took me by surprise and has now become one of my highly regarded comfort reads :)
Profile Image for Debbie.
441 reviews2,794 followers
October 30, 2013
Parents of teenage daughters might not approve of this one. It’s about a 14-year-old, June, who is overly attached to her gay uncle who dies of AIDS. Then she hangs out with his AIDS-riddled lover. This is set in the late 1980s, when little was known about AIDS other than it was scary and awful. And back then, because AIDS hit the gay community the hardest, there was tons of prejudice against gays and plenty of fear that AIDS might be as contagious as a cold.

Let me count the ways this book might horrify parents: June travels alone from Long Island to Manhattan (many times), goes into the woods alone (many times), drinks booze, and smokes—never mind that she’s hanging out with an ill man who is probably three times her age and who her mother hates. June is leading a secret, somewhat dangerous, life, and she does stuff that would scare even the most liberal of parents. But June is smart and interesting, so you just hope that she’ll avert train wrecks.

I really liked this book. Something about this author’s insights into the characters’ motives, and the ease with which she conveys the characters’ emotions, makes this an interesting and fulfilling read. There’s also some very tense and poignant sibling stuff going on between June and her older sister, Greta, who is also leading a secret life.

However, the book was sort of slow, and I did frequently look to see what page I was on, at least during the first three-quarters of the book. This is never a good sign! But the author kept me hooked with her keen insights and interesting characters. I never thought of abandoning it. And the last quarter of the book is suspenseful and has some heavier drama. The novel hints that there is more drama going on with the sister, but it never delivers. Still, the sister is intriguing and complex and the author does expand her role as the book moves on.

I must admit that I’m kind of sick of teenage angst though. I’ve read many good books about teens this year, such as Reconstructing Amelia, Walk Me Home, When I Found You—plus two of my very favorites, The Fault in Our Stars and Golden Boy. But I’m getting tired of the teens’ language, their whining, even their soul-searching. And their logic, or lack thereof, vacillates between being kind of interesting and being super annoying. The authors often tend to make their book sound like it’s YA; there’s something precious and simplistic in the language and internal monologues, which adds a Hallmark feel to it.

This is a debut novel. I always love it when an author pulls off a great first story, like Brunt does. I’ll definitely read Brunt’s next book. But for now, I’m heading for an adult-filled, action-packed mystery. Recommend.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews132 followers
May 23, 2017
Have you ever met someone you connect with on such a deep level that you feel as if that person knows exactly who you really are and can somehow see straight into your heart to your innermost thoughts and feelings? If so, then you will understand how 14 year old June Elbus feels about her Uncle Finn, in this wonderful and charming book by Carol Rifka Brunt.

There are so many layers to this story and each layer contains within it some very important lessons and truths about life. At its most basic level, this book is a coming of age story. June has been close with her Uncle Finn for most of her life. You might even say that she guards this important relationship jealously. He 'gets' her.... even when it seems like nobody else does. But June's Uncle Finn has AIDS and she is having to learn how to say goodbye to the person who knows her best and whom she loves most in the world.

Uncle Finn passes away and June's heart is broken. At the funeral, she and her family notice a man waiting alone outside. June discovers the man's name is Toby and he was her Uncle Finn's lover (her family refers to him as uncle Finn's 'special friend'). Toby contacts June and the two of them begin meeting regularly, but secretly, as June's family would not approve... they believe Toby is responsible for Finn's death. These secret meetings play out against the backdrop of family tensions and misunderstandings in the Elbus family. Of course, what coming of age story is complete without family drama? June and toby begin spending a lot of time together.... they are two people who have lost the person they loved most and they find comfort in each other. June realizes that Toby is also dying of AIDS and makes up her mind to take care of Toby until the end.

This very moving story takes place in 1987 and Ms. Brunt does a fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere in the country surrounding HIV/AIDS in that time period when the disease was first introduced into the public discourse. She captures the fear, anxiety and the blame which seemed to be directed at the gay community... because of widely held erroneous stereotypes and the general misinformation that seemed to surround the disease. Ms. Brunt handled the issue with sensitivity and through her characters' illness, sought to dispel the myths surrounding the killer disease.

This incredibly beautiful story is packed with some very powerful life lessons.... lessons about love and forgiveness and acceptance... about sibling rivalry, jealousy and resentment. The story is about the complexities we so often get bogged down in , in our relationships... complexities that are often self-created and unnecessary. The most important lesson that June had to learn (and one that is important to us all) is that underneath all of the grief and sorrow and disappointments that come our way in life, the only real thing that matters in our relationships is acceptance of ourselves and others and all of our collective shortcomings..after all, the thing that matters most in our relationships is love.

Ms. Brunt has written a story which I will think about for quite some time.
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