Monday, November 26, 2012

Tantalizing Literary Debut

Tell The Wolves I’m Home 

by Carol Rifka Brunt
Review by Kathleen Richardson

I listened to the audio recording of this book which was flawlessly narrated by Amy Rubinate.   It is an engrossing love story about the coming of age of June Elbus.  June loves her Uncle Finn more than anyone else in the world because he truly understands her and helps her grow.  They go to Renaissance fairs together, listen to every recording of Mozart’s Requiem they can find, eat at the Cloisters in NYC, share tea from an ornate Russian teapot, and have exciting adventures in the city.  Usually it’s just the two of them unless it is a family birthday trip to a chic restaurant.  Both June and Finn are pure to the point of naivete.  Finn is her Godfather and best friend.  June’s parents are busy CPA’s and June’s older sister Greta is equally jealous of and repulsed by the relationship between June and Finn.  It is one of the more interesting triangles in the book.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is full of nostalgia but not of the best kind.  Ronald Reagan is President and AIDS doesn't yet have a name.  Finn, a world class painter of some renown has AIDS.  So does his partner Toby.  June’s mother is extremely jealous of Toby and refuses to let him have contact with her family.  And that is even before Mrs. Elbus realizes the gentlemen are terminally ill. She and Finn were extremely close as children and she kept Finn’s secret of being gay from the rest of her family.    When Finn dies the Elbus family keeps Toby from attending the memorial services but June spies him lurking nearby.  Toby and June inevitably begin a clandestine relationship to help them grieve Finn and they find in each other a worthy replacement for Finn.  They feel like old friends because Finn has told each one all about the other.  At first June is jealous of Toby, because of the things and times he shared with Finn that she wasn't a part of.  She discovers it was Toby who bought the special black and white cookies from the bakery before each of June’s visits and she finds that many possessions she thought were Finn’s were in fact Toby’s or were shared possessions.  June cares for Toby as he becomes more ill hiding her whereabouts from Greta.  Her parents are too busy with their accounting business to even notice June’s absences.  Unbeknownst to the other, Finn has put it in writing for each of them to care for the other.  He tells June poignantly that Toby has no one else and it seems to be true.

There is no lack of plot.  Greta is gifted in academia and in both acting and singing.  She is offered a part on Broadway after she is seen in her high school’s production of South Pacific.  Greta also develops a drinking problem.  June on the other hand is very average in her academic abilities. Much of the book revolves around the last painting Finn does, a portrait of June and Greta that is valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Mrs. Elbus blames Toby that Finn decides to stop publicly showing his work.  Toby and June’s relationship is every parent’s worst nightmare in some ways.  He is from England and has spent time in prison.  But Toby is a pure soul as well.  Finn was his first and only love and he helps June admit that it is ok that Finn was her first love too.  Toby and June talk on the phone late at night, sneak away to the Bronx Zoo, even enjoy girly alcoholic drinks together when dining out sometimes and June is only 14.  Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a book you’ll enjoy for the journey but the ending is very satisfying as well. It truly comes full circle. I’m hopeful that Ms. Brunt has another novel out soon and I will read this book one day or listen to it again.  It’s just that good.  The book jacket says very concisely that the story is “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.”  You should definitely give it a try!  People who are eccentric and quirky will definitely identify with Finn and June.

Click the titles or the covers to request it today!

Review by Kathleen Richardson

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