Title: Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
URL: Random House
Price: US $17.00
Summary [from the publisher]:
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.
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.