WARNING: This book review contains spoilers. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know details about the plot and ending of the novel.
Welcome to my first book review for 2013 Book Club! I’m a little late writing this post because I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the book. I pondered it for days, and now I’m ready to discuss. If you haven’t been following along, my pick for January was Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. In a nutshell, it’s the story of fourteen-year-old June Elbus who loses her uncle Finn to AIDS. We find this out from the very first sentence of the novel. Finn is a well-known and successful painter, and one of his dying wishes is to paint a portrait of June and her older sister Greta. The story is set in 1986 so there were some nice 80s flashback details that I enjoyed (music, fashion references, etc.) but it also reminded me of how differently AIDS was perceived in the 80s. Today, Finn and his partner Toby could have lived relatively long lives with AIDS. Knowing that makes Finn’s death even sadder. I’m surprised by how much I cared about his death since he is only a shadow of a character in the book. We meet him only in June’s memories, but we learn enough about him to know that he was a good and special person. His death is a huge loss to everyone in his small circle, particularly June and his boyfriend Toby, which is why he takes steps to have them meet after his death.
June and Toby’s friendship is the driving force in the novel. It’s a secret and forbidden relationship that brings them both heartache and happiness in equal measure. I was glad that June and Toby became friends but I also think it was wrong of him to seek out the friendship. He knew her mother didn’t want them to meet, and he had no right to overstep those boundaries. It made me terribly sad to think of him dying alone, though. Given his past and his AIDS diagnosis, he was not exactly welcome anywhere with open arms. It was fitting for him to die on the Elbus family sofa because he should have been treated as part of the family.
Characters affect how much I can get into the book, and I found that I just didn’t like or understand several of the characters in Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Greta the sister is a whiny, annoying girl with a lot of angst and very few problems. June is frustratingly dense for her age, and some passages of her rambling thoughts become tedious to read. She has a good heart, though, and that redeems her. Her mother, however, has few redeeming qualities, and much of the sadness in the book is the result of her pigheadedness.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Dark and Twisty Meter: Low
Page Turner Rating: Medium
February’s book is Rules of Civility.,