I read this one for book club last month for our ‘heartbreak’ theme – and it definitely fit the bill! It also fits today’s prompt for #readingwomenmonth over on Instagram – historical fiction. Somehow I’ve been able to keep up with the daily post schedule and you can check that out here to see some of the books I’m highlighting this month!
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Genre: YA | Historical Fiction | LGBTQ
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, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself 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
I had kind of been torn between 3 and 4 stars but this one really wasn’t quite where I needed/wanted it to be, and our discussion in book club helped a lot in figuring out exactly what wasn’t solid for me.
I think the main thing was that, while I enjoyed the story and was interested in the characters, I didn’t really like the MC. My main problem was with June, who besides having a very complicated relationship with her uncle (I was not expecting that from this book), never seems to pick up on anyone else’s feelings. There’s a lot going on in her surrounding life and she never tries to understand other’s motivations, even when they’re painfully obvious. June is pretty dumb! I know it’s still possible to enjoy a book without liking the MC but take a hint, June!
I still found it a really entertaining and heartfelt story, though light on grief considering it’s a book about dealing with death, but it’s a fascinating look at these characters who don’t really make sense but somehow all belong together. There are a lot of people with a lot of secrets, and I was so worried the whole time that there was going to be a massive blow-out at any moment. This book doesn’t really lean towards this suspense but there’s still a feeling that they’re not going to have a nice, clean ending as you wait for the other shoe to drop.
This one technically does fall under LGBTQ reads as it’s centered in part on the AIDS crisis but I want to give a heads up, not really a spoiler, that the gay characters die. While it felt like some room was given for these characters to develop, and they were handled well and respectfully albeit from a cis woman’s POV, they ultimately seem to be there as plot devices to explore the pain, guilt, suffering, etc. of the other characters.
Ultimately, I found it to be a good read but not great. It felt like this was meant to reach some deeper meaning, both with the title and it’s supposed genre as a “coming of age” novel, but I think it came up short.
About the Author: Originally from New York, Carol Rifka Brunt now lives in England with her husband and three kids. Her work has been published in The North American Review, The Sun and elsewhere and has received funding from the New Writing Partnership and Arts Council England. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is her first novel.
I’m hoping to do some more life update/behind-the-scenes kind of posts next week so keep an eye out for those! Have a great weekend!