Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

tell the wolves picTell the Wolves I’m Home
by
Carol Rifka Brunt

Rating:

When it comes to friendship and love, what is okay, what is wrong?  How can two unlikely friends take care of each other, and what are the boundaries?  These are some of the central questions in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, an unusual story about a family that is coping with the death of Finn Weiss, a famous artist and gay man, brother and uncle to the family, who has died of AIDS.  The story is set in Westchester, New York, in 1986, during a time when little was known about the disease and much was feared.  June Weiss, Finn’s niece, is fourteen, a solitary girl who is trying to make sense of her own place in the world and of her close relationship to Finn.  This strong bond has all but ruined June’s relationship with her older sister Greta, a smart and talented high school senior, headed for college in just a few months.

The family dynamic is a major theme in this well-written story, especially between June and Greta.  The plot revolves around Finn’s final painting, a portrait of June and Greta and the family’s reaction to it.  When June meets Finn’s lover, Toby, a man who has been kept a secret from her while Finn was alive, the two develop a strange and unconventional, highly-charged relationship.

I enjoyed a great deal about this book.  It’s well-structured and moves at an engaging pace.  It’s a complicated story and it’s sometimes sweet.  There’s a little bit of mystery and magical feel to it.  But there are also many things that make it uncomfortable, strange and creepy.  June seems to be uncontrollably propelled, or maybe pulled into a friendship with Toby, but either way, the risks are enormous and her decisions are hard to understand.

The best part of the story is the painting and how it becomes a way for the characters to communicate.  I also think the relationship between sisters is the best part of the dynamic and I hoped for a reconnection between the two.  I had trouble understanding the rest of the relationships, but it’s definitely a book that makes you think, and that’s why I enjoyed it.

Thanks to my friend Dawn for recommending Tell the Wolves I’m Home and for being my guest blogger.  Click here to read her review.  If you’re a book clubber, it’s a good choice.  Some of you will love it and some of you will not, all-in-all a great discussion book!

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Book Preview: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

tell the wolves pic

What’s up next?

Next I’ll be reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt.  You may remember that my friend Dawn (http://mmapron.com) recently reviewed this book for me as a guest on my blog (https://bvitelli2002.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/guest-blog-by-dawn-a-review-of-tell-the-wolves-im-home/).  Now I’m looking forward to reading it myself!

Here is a brief bio I found on Brunt’s website.

Carol Rifka Brunt
Carol Rifka Brunt

Carol Rifka Brunt grew up in the suburbs of New York City and now lives with her family in the southwest of England. She has published short fiction and non-fiction in The North American Review and The Sun. Her first novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, was named a best book of the year by Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, Kirkus, BookPage and Amazon, was a Barnes and Noble Discover pick, Target club pick, Costco Pennie’s pick, an ALA Alex Award winner and has sold in 16 countries. She is currently trying very hard to forget all of that, pretend there is no pressure to live up to anything, and concentrate on writing her second novel.

You can find additional information about Brunt at:  http://www.carolrifkabrunt.com/

Thanks for visiting!

Here is what’s on my short list of reads:

tell the wolves pic
Tell the Wolves I’m Home
by Carol Rifka Brunt

 

the caged graves pic
The Caged Graves
by Dianne K. Salerni

 

The pieces we keep pic
The Pieces We Keep
by Kristina McMorris

 

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells pic
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells
by Andrew Sean Greer

 

Guest Blog by Dawn: A review of Tell the Wolves I’m Home

tell the wolves picTell the Wolves I’m Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt

Rating:  *****

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is a book about love, loss and family during the early onset of the AIDS epidemic in 1987. June Elbus is the fourteen-year-old narrator who adores her uncle and godfather, Finn Weiss. Finn, in addition to being June’s favorite person in the world, is a world-renowned painter who is dying of AIDS. His last great painting is a portrait of June and her sister Greta, a project designed to allow his family to spend time together before his death.

Greta is a talented singer who used to be very close with her younger sister June, but recently their relationship has become fractured and strained. At first, Greta appears to be the stereotypical bratty and one-dimensional Golden Child character adored by all, but we eventually learn that Greta has demons of her own. Having a sister and understanding the sometimes love-hate nature of sisterly relationships, I felt their relationship rang true. I know not everyone agrees with this. Consider yourself lucky if you have a sister and cannot relate to Greta and June in any way.

Their portrait, Finn’s last known work, is considered very valuable once it has been discovered. What transpires next is central to the plot, so I won’t go into details. But I will say that everyone manages to communicate through this painting, and the concept of negative space is introduced. Negative space is the space between the subjects, and a key element of good artistic composition. Sometimes the most interesting things are revealed in the space in between.

After Finn’s death, June befriends his long-time partner, Toby, who has been kept a secret from June. Toby and Finn’s life is was rich and full, but not something Finn could share with his beloved niece due to the anti-gay mindset of the times. Negative space, so to speak. Having grown up in the 1980s, it’s really jarring to recall those days when people understood so little about HIV and AIDS, and when it meant an automatic death sentence. It is a reminder of how far our society has come, both in science and in tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community.

The relationship between Toby and June evolves from something initially fraught with mistrust and jealousy (June’s) to a real understanding, mutual respect and love. It is a beautiful relationship and just what Finn had hoped would happen after his death.

    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. — Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home

June is a shy, insightful, wise-beyond-her-years narrator you will not soon forget.  This is a sweet, sad, yet ultimately hopeful coming-of-age debut novel that will appeal to readers of all ages. I look forward to reading more from Carol Rifka Brunt.

I want to thank my friend Dawn for such a thoughtful review.  Be sure to check out her blog, Mom Mom’s Apron, Of food and life:  http://mmapron.com

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