Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel by Carol Rifka Brunt.
June is a smart and resourceful 14-year-old with a talented but distant older sister, and parents who are both CPA’s and provide little supervision during tax season.
Mix the family dynamics with the death of June’s beloved uncle, Finn, and you’ve got a recipe for what could go wrong?
Set in 1987, Finn was a famous artist who died of AIDS before very much was known about the virus. This took me back to my own childhood as the book detailed the news reports, wild theories, and sadly the nastiness directed at the gay community.
Finn had a “friend”, Toby, that the family won’t speak of and believe that he killed their brother and uncle. But in a chain of events facilitated by typical ‘80’s parenting – kids of the ‘80’s know what I mean – June meets this friend of Finn’s and they develop a bond over their mutual love for Finn.
That’s where the book went south for me. While there were sweet moments of remembrance for Finn, the liberties taken by Toby – an adult – with a 14-year-old girl were too much for me. Nothing truly inappropriate but secretly sending letters, giving gifts, meeting her in the city, and other adventures without her parents’ knowledge made the story lose credibility for me.
All of that was a distraction for me. The author missed her chance to highlight the AIDS epidemic, the treatment of individuals with HIV/AIDS, and the grief process of a family. All in favor of the secret relationship and exploits of a 14-year-old girl.
What did I enjoy? The descriptions of Finn’s art, the painting he left behind for his nieces, and the push and pull of the sisterly relationship were well done. The writing was also excellent and the characters were decently developed.
Who would I recommend this book to? If you were a child of the ’80s and can forgive some of the WTF’s of the plot, you may enjoy this book. This is classified as a young adult book but the issues addressed will appeal to both young adults and adults alike.
If you liked The Astonishing Color of After or The Book of Essie, you will probably enjoy Tell the Wolves I’m Home.