Carol Rifka Brunt’s 2012 novel Tell the Wolves I’m Home combines love, grief, and family in a coming of age story that leaves the reader feeling every emotion imaginable.
The novel’s plot centers on the life of June Elbus in the 1980s after her uncle Finn – who also happens to be her godfather – dies from AIDS. She notices a man she has never seen before at his funeral and learns that the man is Toby, Finn’s boyfriend. Despite June wanting to hate Toby in the beginning, Toby and June bond throughout the novel. For example, they share memories of Finn and even travel to a medieval fair and take photos dressed in medieval garb.
June’s older sister, Greta, on the other hand, wasn’t as close to Finn as June was. Greta and June were close when they were young, but they distanced some as they grew up. The novel sees them come back together and reignite the suppressed sisterly love shared between them.
Finn was June and Greta’s paternal uncle, so the novel also explores the grief of their mother, Danielle. It is revealed throughout that she secretly blamed Toby for Finn’s death and never dealt with her anger toward or him or her sadness regarding her brother’s death. She and her husband keep busy with their work, which never allowed her the opportunity to properly grieve (it certainly doesn’t help that they are accountants and the novel is set during the American tax season).
All of these family dynamics culminate in a tale that transcends family squabbles, high school drama, forest parties, elaborate paintings, familial loss, and everything in-between. The text tackles LGBT relationships and AIDS in a time where these topics were highly stigmatized. Brunt’s writing grabs you as the reader and instills compassion and warmth for everyone, not just those who are different or those who have experienced familial loss. Tell the Wolves I’m Home exudes love.
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