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Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel by Carol…

Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Carol Rifka Brunt

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1,8301593,816 (4.15)87
Title:Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel
Authors:Carol Rifka Brunt
Info:The Dial Press (2012), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:have read, Your library, fiction, audiobooks
Tags:AIDS, read 2013, artist

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Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)


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Listened to the audiobook version. While I enjoyed the book for the most part, I had difficult accepting the underlining conflict that was to hold the story together. ( )
  MichaelC.Oliveira | Jul 17, 2016 |
Every so often a book comes along to remind us why we love reading, and this was my metaphorical kick up the ass. Similar in style to When You Reach Me and Rainbow and Park, this is a touching young adult novel about a teenage girl called June who loses her uncle to AIDS but finds an unlikely friend in his stricken lover, Toby. June and her sister Greta have grown apart, her parents work all hours, and she has no real friends, but after everything seems to fall apart, a portrait brings the family back together.

I loved all the characters in this story, especially June, who is shy, lonely and slightly naive, but very likeable. Greta, an overachiever at sixteen, seems slightly catty and self-serving at first ('with Greta, you have to look for the nice things buried in the rest of her mean stuff'), yet she obviously has her own battles to fight and comes through in the end. Toby, while perhaps not the best choice of friend for a fourteen year old girl, is quirky enough to be sympathetic, struggling with losing his lover and his own illness. The subject of AIDS is covered appropriately enough for the time in which the novel is set - 1984 - with a mixed sense of shame and anger from Finn's family, especially his sister Danni, June's mother. AZT is the new wonder drug at this point, and 'President Regan was on TV, giving a big speech about AIDS for the first time'. The disease is a death sentence, and dangerously misunderstood by society.

Uncle Finn, a 'free spirit and a good man', cut down in his prime, is the best character, built up in the words of his niece with glimmers of the real man revealed by Toby and Danni. A reclusive artist, one of his last works is a portrait of June and Greta, which he enigmatically titles 'Tell The Wolves I'm Home'. Toby and the two sisters use the portrait to work through their grief, while Toby and June use each other to fulfill their promises to a dying man.

I really enjoyed this novel, from the 1980s setting - 'As 99 Luftballons started up, I sat there waiting for Nena to say "Captain Kirk", the two words in the whole song I understood' - to the emotional theme of love and loss. I found June very relatable, living inside her own imagination but sharp enough to observe the cracks in the world around her, from her parents' taste in greatest hits albums ('the thought of getting even one bum track was too much for them to handle') and her mother's grey roots ('that thin crack where her real self had forced its way through').

A swift read, full of feeling and humour. Recommended. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jul 13, 2016 |
I see most of the reviews gave this book five stars. I reserve five stars for my all-time favorite books. This is not one of my all-time favorite books. It is very good and should be read. This book has many things to it. The relationship and love between a gay uncle and a young niece. The relationship and love/hate between two sisters. The relationship between a 14-year-old girl and her uncles partner. It's about acceptance, growing up, becoming an adult, dealing with dying, drinking, and doing the right thing. It's about different kinds of love and kindness and how you can love someone no matter what age difference you have. It's also set in the late 80's when AIDS was such a scary time for people because they didn't know how to handle it. It's a sad book but it also pulls you along and makes you want to know what will happen next. I recommend this book. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 10, 2016 |
An awkward 14 year old and the AIDS epidemic of the early 80's, not a promising mix, but Tell the Wolves I'm Home turned this unlikely pairing into an emotionally charged story of love, loss and acceptance. AIDS wasn't portrayed as a scourge but as a circumstance that changed the interactions of those affected by the illness. For example, 14 year old June wondered if AIDS had slowed her beloved uncle down enough to reconnect with his family and, without AIDS, would he even have been a part of her life? Still, the illness took its toll. At times the drama and family dysfunction were, well, adolescent, but, then again, this is a YA novel. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Tell the Wolves I’m Home portrays an awkward young girl’s struggle to comprehend love in a time and a culture when AIDS awareness was just beginning. Fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels closer to her uncle Finn than anyone else on earth. A renowned artist, he takes her to the Cloisters and introduces her to Mozart’s Requiem. June’s love for Finn will not die even though Finn is. It’s 1987, and he has AIDS. In the final months of his life, Finn spends Sunday afternoons painting a portrait of June and her sister, Greta, that he titles “Tell the Wolves I’m Home.” The girls’ mother, Finn’s sister, disapproves of her brother’s homosexuality and worries about whether the girls could catch AIDS from something as innocent as using their uncle’s lip balm. AIDS was relatively new in the late 1980s and the fear was rampant as was the embarrassment of association. After Finn’s death June struggles to sort out her complicated feelings for her uncle alone until the day Finn’s boyfriend Toby delivers a package. June had not met Toby previously and her mother believes Toby is the one who “murdered” Finn. The package includes a note from Finn, a sort of last request, asking June to look after Toby. As June and Toby become acquainted, she learns things she never knew about Finn. Each story Toby shares offers June greater understanding of the person she loved more than anyone else. The revelations also leave June confused. If she didn’t know these things Toby reveals about Finn, did she even really know her uncle? I found this book to be original, heartfelt, and well-written. It took me a little while to get into the novel but once I did I thought it was a wonderful story with realistic characters. " ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jun 16, 2016 |
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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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679644199, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: In Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt has made a singular portrait of the late-‘80s AIDS epidemic’s transformation of a girl and her family. But beyond that, she tells a universal story of how love chooses us, and how flashes of our beloved live through us even after they’re gone. Before her Uncle Finn died of an illness people don’t want to talk about, 14-year-old June Elbus thought she was the center of his world. A famous and reclusive painter, Finn made her feel uniquely understood, privy to secret knowledge like how to really hear Mozart’s Requiem or see the shape of negative space. When he’s gone, she discovers he had a bigger secret: his longtime partner Toby, the only other person who misses him as much as she does. Her clandestine friendship with Toby—who her parents blame for Finn’s illness—sharpens tensions with her sister, Greta, until their bond seems to exist only in the portrait Finn painted of them. With wry compassion, Brunt portrays the bitter lengths to which we will go to hide our soft underbellies, and how summoning the courage to be vulnerable is the only way to see through to each other’s hungry, golden souls. --Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:21 -0400)

"1987. The only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus is 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 ... June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and that this unexpected friend just might be the one she needs the most"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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