Tell the Wolves I’m Home Book Review

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I read this book ages ago and meant to do a review of if then because I loved it so much. But because I was on vacation at the time I promptly forgot about it and it didn’t cross my mind until two seconds ago when I saw it sitting on my bookshelf.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel of Carol Rifka Brunt. Set in 1980’s Westchester, the novel follows 14 year old June Elbus. June’s uncle Finn is a world famous painter, but June is largely unaware of her uncle’s fame. To her, he is simply her best friend and love, the person she feels most at home with.

June is shocked to learn her uncle is dying of AIDS. As his health begins to deteriorate, Finn insists on painting a portrait of June and her older sister Greta. He manages to complete the painting shortly before his death.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a man lurking on the outskirts and is informed by her sister that the man, Toby, is Finn’s boyfriend, a person June never knew existed in spite of his long relationship with her uncle. June is instructed by her parents to stay a away from Toby as he is supposedly a terrible man.

Of course, if June did what her parents said we wouldn’t have a book, and a wary June gradually befriends Toby. As time passes, June comes to a lot of realizations about herself and her relationships with her uncle, parents, and her sister. We see her come out of her shell a bit and learn to take more control of her life, a lesson I think resonates with many young adults.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because of June’s quiet, observant narration. An introvert and a bit of an old soul, June’s quirkiness is endearing and her observations are simple and unassuming, making the writing feel relatable and comfortable. The novel is serious, with little room for humor, but Brunt manages to squeeze a few smile worthy tidbits into the text as well.

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