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Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka…

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt

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2,7982073,441 (4.12)140
It is 1987, and only one person has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus -- 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.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
4.5 stars. An outstanding work of character-driven fiction about love, loss, and finding yourself in the aftermath. ( )
  ChristopherSwann | May 15, 2020 |
It is a rare occurrence in today's quick-fix best-seller fiction, but every so often you stumble upon a book that takes your breath away - a book you know you will read over and over and it will never get stale. And Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is such a book.

What is surprising about this book is not so much that it that it is written with incredible skill and care, but that it is the debut novel for the author. Brunt seems to have jumped right over first novel territory into a place where she has a mature and beautiful voice: artful use of language, an insight into literature, and an understanding of the way a story should be woven not only in terms of plot but in terms of layers of descriptions, similes, and symbolism.

Brunt's descriptions of places, people, and memories are not only clever and perceptive, but precise. She also doesn't tend to rely on the tried and true similes but comes up with her own fresh ideas. The most apt descriptor for this story would be a love story. And then another love story...and so on. It is about a girl and her uncle, a girl and her sister, a sister and a brother, an artist and his 'secret' lover, a father and a mother, a girl and her forbidden friend; and all these love stories are bound together and revealed by the terrible, and wonderful, things we do for love.

The book begins with June Elbus and her older sister Greta being painted by their Uncle Finn who is dying of AIDS in 1987. The time period itself is a refreshing change in a world where most books are set either further in the past, in the present, or in some yet to be discovered future. When Uncle Finn does die, June is left with a gaping hole in her life that no one understands. In fact she is often begrudged of her grief because Finn was just an uncle after all. But to June he was much more than an uncle. He was the one person who could read her heart and make her feel special; he was the person June felt she couldn't live without.

Brunt's descriptions of June's grief and the fear that comes with it are so sincere that anyone who has lost a love will feel their heart being embraced by such aching phrases as "Not only because Finn had never told me...but because there was no way to ask him about it. And until then I don't think I really understood the meaning of gone." (pg 55) and "I understood how just about anything in the world could remind you of Finn...Things you'd never even seen with Finn could remind you of him, because he was the one person you'd want to show."

In the shadow of this unbearable grief is a whisper of hope in the form of Finn's secret boyfriend, Toby, who shows up in June's life to deliver an old Russian teapot from her uncle. The relationship between these two people who loved Finn deeply, but were never allowed to meet, is at once awkward, sweet, hilarious, and eventually intimate. Even as the pressures of the outside world threaten to tear them apart their bonds grow and together they manage to find a sense of hope.

Also, both of her parents are accountants, which means that during tax season, when the events of the novel take place, she and her sister are taking care of themselves while her parents work long and exhausting hours and are not around to help her through her grief. So when her father comes home one evening, tired and sick and worked to the bone:

"well, why do you do it, then?"

i meant it seriously.i really wondered why people were always doing what they didn't like doing. it seemed like life was a sort of narrowing tunnel. right when you were born, the tunnel was huge. you could be anything. then, the absolute second after you were born, the tunnel narrowed down to about half that size. you were a boy, and already it was certain that you wouldn't be a mother and it was likely you wouldn't become a manicurist or a kindergarten teacher. then you started to grow up and everything you did closed the tunnel in some more. you broke your arm climbing a tree and you ruled out being a baseball pitcher. you failed every math test you ever took and you canceled any hope of being a scientist. like that. on and on through the years until you were stuck. you'd become a baker or a librarian or a bartender. or an accountant. and there you were. i figured that on the day you died, the tunnel would be so narrow, you'd have squeezed yourself in with so many choices, that you just got squashed.

"why do i do it?" my dad said. "that's a no-brainer. for you. for you and greta and your mother."

"oh," i said, suddenly feeling immensely sad that somebody would throw their whole life away just to make sure other people were happy......" WOAH.

With so many different relationships making up this story it is little surprise that the climax involves the bringing together of all these stories, but even if you can see it coming it does nothing to curb the mounting suspense as you wait for something, or everything, to break.

Five out of five stars, but only because there is no way to give her six out of five. Brilliantly done! ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
My heart!!!! From beginning to end I loved this book. Every flawed character was perfection and I never wanted this story to end. Fourteen year old June's best friend in the world is her Uncle Finn. When he dies of AIDS she is heartbroken and no one, not even her sister or her mother, understand what she's going through. They all just want to move on. When Finn's "special friend" reaches out June reluctantly agrees to meet him. Soon they realize how much they both loved the same bond and they slowly start to trust each other. A dazzling coming of age tale told through art, sibling rivalry, medieval music, and more. Truly wonderful and a story I will definitely visit again! ( )
  ecataldi | Apr 5, 2020 |
Tell the Wolves I’m Home By Carol Rifka Brunt


Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a touching story which eloquently expresses the the struggles of relationships in families during adolescence, death and sibling rivalry. The author provides encouragement regarding the emotional process of grieving losses and reconciling past issues.

June Elbus is a typical shy and awkward 14 year old trying to maneuver the challenges of adolescence in New York during the late 1980’s. Over the years she has come to rely on her Uncle Finn for emotional support as she became more distant from her older sister, Greta. She felt that he was the only one who understood and accepted her completely. Finn Weiss was also a renowned artist and godfather to Junie cherished their relationship.

The family understands that Finn is gravely ill and would like to paint a portrait of June and her sister Greta before he dies. Their mother, Finn’s sister, drives them every Sunday to his apartment so that he can work on the painting. Finn hopes that the time together might help reconcile differences between the sisters who were once very close. It was also a reason to spend time with his sister with whom he had a strained relationship after he was diagnosed. Although she rarely spoke her presence was an important reminder of family relationships. While Mozart’s Requiem played in the background, his sister would carefully prepare tea each week in Finn’s treasured Russian teapot while the girls sat for the portrait.

Finn’s death had a profound effect on the family who all dealt with their grief differently. Although the portrait was finished before his death, it was difficult for the family to actually look at the finished piece. Aside from the portrait reminding them of Finn’s loss, it also stood as a visual representation of the grief and resentment that existed within the family.

One day, June receives a mysterious package containing her uncle’s beloved teapot. An interesting encounter with a stranger helps June to see her life from another perspective. Is it possible to rectify relationships fractured over the years by jealousy, resentment and misunderstanding? How can a family grieve a loss and find their way back to the love that once existed? Is it ever too late to heal old wounds to create new memories? ( )
  marquis784 | Feb 15, 2020 |
Somewhat charming at times, also overdone. It would be nice to see less young-adult style spelling out of exactly how each action should be interpreted and what should be thought of the characters. I had some lounging around to do this weekend, and this book was a decent way to spend some of that time. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
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For Maddy, Oakley, and Julia
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My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying.
You could try to believe what you wanted, but it never worked. Your brain and your heart decided what you were going to believe and that was that. Whether you liked it or not.
You could never see any wolves in there. They hid, probably trying to pretend they weren't in a cage. Probably knowing that they looked just like plain old dogs when they were behind bars.
The gold in our hair looked so perfect right then, and I knew we both saw it. We could see the way it made us look like the closest of sisters. Girls made of exactly the same stuff.
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