Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Dial Press
ISBN: 978-0679644194
Published June 4, 2013
Hardcover, 384 pages

This novel is a coming-of-age story about fourteen year-old June who loses her uncle—with whom she had a close relationship—when he dies of AIDS. It's a novel that explores grief, prejudice, AIDS, and family dynamics set in the mid-1980's. We chose this book for our book club in July and it made for a lively discussion.

June is shy and awkward. She's different from the girls at school and she misses her uncle Finn who was a renowned artist. She also misses the close relationship she once had with her sister, Greta, who is popular at school and who now treats June cruelly.When Toby, Finn's companion reaches out to June in secret, they form a friendship that helps them cope with their shared grief.

I liked this story because it was set in 1987, the year after I graduated from high school. I could easily relate to all the references made, and it brought me back to my own teen years. And I remembered people's reaction to AIDS, how those who had it were shunned, and everyone was terrified of getting it. This comes across strongly in the novel and reflects how things were in the 80s.

The story is told from June's point-of-view, which I liked, because she is a complex character and seemed very real to me. June was honest in her portrayal of events and situations. I had a hard time liking Toby, initially, because he came across as a boyish adult, with little maturity, introducing smoking and drinking to Toby. I felt so sorry for him. He had no friends and sometimes was almost childlike. Of course, in the 80s smoking was not seen as such a big deal as it is today. And he didn't do anything with malice. It was as if in his desperation to befriend the niece of the person he had once loved, he forgot that she was under aged.

As the story progressed, I felt more compassion, both for June and Toby and even Greta, who was suffering in her own way. As we learn more about Toby, we discover someone kind and considerate and lonely. This was a thought-provoking novel that brought me back to my own teen years. Although both Finn and Toby were homosexuals, there are no sex scenes, and the story is not about accepting homosexuality, but about friendship and compassion.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home is an eye-opening look at how one family deals with grief and unspoken issues that cause anger and hurt. It can make one realize how important family communication and relationships are.

This book is rated C = clean read. There are scenes of June smoking and one where she gets drunk. I honestly don't recall any profanity but there may have been one or two f-words.

Reviewed by Laura 

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

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