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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt~★★★★1/2

Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Title: Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: The Dial Press
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don't know you've lost someone until you've found them.
1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can be herself only in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn's funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most. 
An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again." 

Taryn's Review: When I was about sixteen-years-old, I was working with my uncle at his business. While telling me a story, he included a detail about his first marriage. That moment stood still in time for me. His statement swirled around in my head; all I could think was, "My uncle has been married before?" He'd been in my life for as long as I could remember. No one had ever mentioned to me that his marriage to my aunt was his second. For me, that was the true beginning to maturity, as I began to realize that people had lives before my existence; just because I knew someone, my relationship with that person didn't necessarily mean that I knew that person. I also questioned my relationship with those people around me: how many people, like my parents, knew this about my uncle and never told me? Was I purposefully left in the dark or had I been too self-centered to really listen, or even ask questions?

Fourteen-year-old June Elbus had a similar revelation after the death of her uncle, Finn. June and Finn shared a love for many things, including art, music, medieval times, and one another. June and Finn were soulmates in June's eyes. Sadly, Finn passed away from AIDS and June's world was turned upside down. A small consolation for June was the portrait of herself and her older sister, Greta, that Finn painted before his death. She longed for her uncle and struggled with her feelings toward the situation.

June's information about Finn's AIDS quickly came into question with the arrival of Toby, Finn's partner of nine years, into her life. Previously, Toby had not been a part of June's life or her life with Finn. The story beautifully followed the developing relationship between Toby and June as they bonded over the memory of the man they both loved. Another storyline in the book involved Greta's jealously over Finn and June's relationship, which had a deeper symbolism, reflecting the strained relationship between Finn and June's mother, Danni (also represented by Finn's view of the portrait). I read a portion of this book in the break room at work and I had to hold back tears as I read the ending to a particular chapter. I think had I been alone, I would have had a teary moment of reflection about the scene at hand. My heart continued to break during June's journey with Toby as she discovered what a facade had been put on under the guise of it being in June and her family's best interest.

Why not 5 stars, then? I'll be honest, it was a difficult choice for me to make, but ultimately, it was missing a specific emotional connection that pushes a book into a perfect rating for me. That connection has revealed itself as I read books like Still Alice, Of Mice and Men, A Farewell to Arms, and Sleepwalking in Daylight, yet it was missing for me in this book. I'm aware that some people will disagree with my rating, but the beauty of reading books and interpreting them is that they affect us all differently; even though it wasn't a perfect book for me, that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate it or the message it provided. Regardless of my slight difference of opinion from the majority, I do agree with most reviews that this book was excellent and that it was superbly written. For a debut novel, especially, Carol Rifka Brunt has made a name for herself and I would gladly select any new books she authors for my "to-be-read" list.

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