Adolescence is awkward at the best of times and painfully cruel at the worst. Death, even when expected, can be crushing and life changing (often at the same time). Intersecting the two can be heartbreaking. This is where you’ll find Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.
In 1987, fourteen year old June loses the one person who knew and loved her best – her uncle and godfather. Finn, a celebrated painter, passes away due to a disease that few understand – AIDS. Left behind is his partner Toby, beloved by Finn, but ostracized by his family who believe he is a murderer. June, who knew nothing of Toby, is shocked and jealous to learn of his existence. She never imagined she shared Finn’s heart. However, Finn posthumously asks June to care for the lonely Toby. June, initially warily, then enthusiastically, sets out to fulfill Finn’s wish. In the process, June learns to navigate the difficult topography of jealousies, missed opportunities, and complicated family relationships.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home is an unforgettable, original debut novel. Narrator June is one of the most lovingly developed main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading (not to be confused with being lovable). As she moves from childhood into everything that comes after, she experiences love, loss, jealousy, grief, and a teenage version of enlightenment. June begins to understand that jealousy can ruin the person we have the potential to be, instead poisoning the decisions with make. These rash decisions can cause missed opportunities, strained relationships, even, on occasion, a life to be cut short – even if only by minutes. June learns that grief changes our understanding of relativity and that love develops in the most unexpected places.
“I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.”
While the relationship between June and Finn, and then June and Toby, is moving and well-developed, perhaps the most poignant relationship examined in the novel is between June and her sister Greta. June and Greta, once best friends, have slowly drifted into bitter animosity. As they struggle with who they are becoming, it is a pleasure to see the evolution of their relationship. Ultimately, this is a beautiful, heartfelt, melacholy coming of age story. Bottom line: 5/5. If you enjoy good fiction, READ THIS BOOK!!!