“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt cannot be classified as a Young Adult novel. It is not that for sure. It is haunting and adult in more ways than one. It is a beautiful human story that I was expecting on reading the synopsis and it delivers at every level.
The premise is simple: Fourteen-year old June Elbus loses her beloved uncle Finn Weiss to AIDS. Finn, who was a reclusive artist and spent the last months of his life painting a portrait of June and her older sister Greta. After Finn’s death, June chances upon another side to her uncle – an almost other life and she leads to the road of discovering her uncle and stitching the fragments in her mind and heart.
June learns that her uncle had a secret boyfriend, Toby. She is jealous of Toby. She is told by her family that her uncle died because of Toby as he was responsible for Finn’s disease. She hates him passionately at the beginning, but begins to learn more about her uncle through him, and eventually warms up to him, and grows to love him immensely. At the same time June misses her uncle in ways unimaginable and that is also at the core of the story, which sometimes is heartbreaking.
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” is about acute grief and how does one deal with it. It is about growing up and how does one feel like an outsider – be it June, or Toby or Finn for that matter. Told from June’s perspective, the book is not easy to begin with – a lot of past and present scenes are muddled, but I somehow liked the time shifts as they added to the overall narrative.
The book has its own set of twists and turns. The good part is that there aren’t too much to handle at any point. Every character has his or her own story to tell and Carol has done justice to each of them.
Carol Rifka Brunt’s characters are flawed. No one is perfect. That is why I enjoyed reading this book the way I did. The title of the book is as unique as the plot. You need to read the book to figure, why this title was used.
My favourite character in the entire book has to be Toby. He is a great combination of tenderness, sentimentality and an outcast that only needs to be understood. In more than one way, the similarities between June and Toby are striking and maybe that was intentional.
The urgency in the writing is apparent. Words flow effortlessly and that style appealed to me as a reader. It kept taking me to a place that reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird in some ways and that is very special to me. Tell the Wolves I’m Home definitely has to be one of the best reads this year. Highly recommended.