Sometimes, a story reaches out to you in such a personal way that you feel it belongs to you. For anyone who’s ever known isolation, loss or the awkwardness of simply not fitting in, “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” will speak volumes. Set in the early 80s, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the novel explores the nuances of family relationships, grief and growing up in a brutally honest way. Written by Carol Rifka Brunt, “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” is nothing short of beautifully heartbreaking.
Fourteen-year-old June Elbus has just one person in the entire world that understands her: Finn Weiss, her uncle and godfather. He’s her best friend and knows her in a special kind of way that nobody else does. Also, a world-renowned artist and shut-in, Finn asks June and her sister Greta to sit for him, so that he can paint their portrait. Every Sunday, the girls come to sit at Finn’s apartment in Manhattan and he paints them, one brush stroke at a time. One day, June learns that he’s very sick with something that she doesn’t really understand – something that has just been introduced to the world, AIDS, an epidemic that is both confusing and terrifying to her and the entire world. When Finn passes away, June feels completely adrift and has a hard time coming to terms with his loss.
But then, something happens that June does not expect: she meets Toby, a man that knew Finn perhaps even better than she did. As they get to know each other, June begins to realize that maybe there is someone else in the world who loved Finn just as much as she did. Together, they learn to deal with grief and find joy in the world they didn’t know still existed.
As far as emotional roller coasters go, “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” takes the cake. It’s a heavy read, but only because it’s so honest in its storytelling; no matter who you are, you can recognize bits of yourself in this book. And really, that’s the beauty of a well-written book that’s tinged with sadness; you know it’s going to break your heart, but you can’t tear yourself away.
“Tell The Wolves I’m Home” is Brunt’s first novel. Published in 2012, the novel made The New York Time’s Best Seller list soon after and has quickly become a talking point for book clubs and reader’s lists worldwide. For more information about Brunt and her other projects, visit carolrifkabrunt.com.