Sunday, March 09, 2014


Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt, The Dial Press, 2012, 355pp

I am not usually a fan of what I call Terminal Illness Lit (you know, cancer, AIDS, etc) but this one wormed its way into my heart because it is also about sisters, unconditional love, and coming of age, with a complete nerd as its heroine. Oh yes, there is also art (painting) involved.

Shy, misunderstood June Elbus, who would rather live in the Middle Ages, lost her beloved uncle to AIDS in 1987 when she was 14. It is hard to remember now, but in 1987 AIDS was barely understood and causing great alarm as well as gross amounts of hurtful commentary. 

Thus in June's family, Uncle Finn, his illness, his lifestyle, and finally his death had divided them in many ways, making June's grief and mourning even more lonely. She forms a friendship with her uncle's still living lover and gropes her way through to healing and redemption.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, you would not be missing that much if you passed on the novel. For me, it was the kind of book I liked while reading it but promptly forgot when I was done.

The writing is good and not mushy or sentimental. Brunt gives June the believable voice of a girl her age. She also does the trick of making an unreliable narrator become reliable as June matures and figures out what is going on.

I had trouble believing the parents as characters. They are portrayed as loving parents but are so out of touch with their teen daughters, it belies the love. I had a similar problem with the parents in Jodi Picoult's The Pact. In fact, I swore I would never read Picoult again because I don't trust her.

Carol Rifka Brunt retained my trust. I am aware that raising teens in America these days is one of the more challenging enterprises an adult can attempt, so I would recommend Tell The Wolves I'm Home to parents of teens if only to alert them to how much they might be in the dark about their offspring and to how much love, communication, and caring it takes.

In the end, June becomes the heroine who saves her family, recovers her sister's love, and finally is able to participate in the world. It is all somewhat unbelievable but if only the believable happened in life, we would be in even worse straits than we are. Isn't that one of the purposes of fiction? To present us with various possibilities?

(Tell The Wolves I'm Home is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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