Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
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really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed, literary-fiction
Recommended to Nancy by: the title recommended itself to me
Recommended for: readers who love a character-driven literary novel

Tell the Wolves I’m Home
By Carol Rifka Brunt

Sometimes it’s hard for me to read books like this - adult book, teenage protagonist coming of age in a hair-raising manner - because as a mother I’m always wondering whether a teenager of mine would behave like that. But, still, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a worthwhile read.

Fourteen-year-old June Elbus is feeling more than the typical burden of teenage self-loathing. An awkward teen, she prefers wandering in the woods, dreaming that she lives in the Middle Ages rather than in the present where she knows herself to be odd. Her older sister Greta ignores her at school and actively persecutes her at home. And her favorite Uncle Finn, the one person who seems to understand and love her as she is, is dying of AIDS. This is 1987, when distrust and misinformation about the disease are rampant.

Even as June is racked with grief over Finn’s death, which happens in the early pages of the book, she meets Toby, Finn’s partner. He is a complete stranger to her, as her mother had never permitted Finn to disclose that they lived together. Although initially hostile to Toby, June realizes that she can learn more about her uncle from the person who loved him most. While June sneaks about, arranging meetings with Toby and cutting classes, her sister sneaks about partying and drinking, and it takes June a while to recognize her cry for help. The parents, both accountants snowed under in the busiest part of tax season, are mostly clueless.

Despite the angsty plot, or perhaps because of it, the reader sees the capable and compassionate person that June is becoming. Although she initially reaches out to Toby only to learn more about Finn, June gradually learns to love and appreciate her uncle’s partner, who is, after all, dying of AIDS himself.

We know Finn through June and Toby’s memories. He is a celebrated painter, and it is his last painting, of June and her sister, that finally draws the family together and shows them that they are not as divided as they thought.

June is such an authentic character, wishing fervently that she were popular and well-liked even as she pursues the interests that insure that she will be neither. She is easy for the reader to like, which is a good thing, since the entire book is written in her voice. In the end, we recognize with June and her family that secrets stop hurting - or at least can begin healing - when we share them.

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Reading Progress

December 2, 2012 – Started Reading
December 2, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 3, 2012 – Shelved
January 4, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed
July 20, 2013 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

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