Summary and book reviews of Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

A Novel

by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2012, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

One

My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying. This was after I understood that I wasn't going to grow up and move into his apartment and live there with him for the rest of my life. After I stopped believing that the AIDS thing was all some kind of big mistake. When he first asked, my mother said no. She said there was something macabre about it. When she thought of the two of us sitting in Finn's apartment with its huge windows and the scent of lavender and orange, when she thought of him looking at us like it might be the last time he would see us, she couldn't bear it. And, she said, it was a long drive from northern Westchester all the way into Manhattan. She crossed her arms over her chest, looked right into Finn's bird-blue eyes, and told him it was just hard to find the time these days.

"Tell me about it," he said.

That's what broke her.

I'm fifteen now, but I was still fourteen that afternoon. Greta was...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Toby initiates a relationship with June that necessarily involves secrets kept from her parents. Can this ever be right? Is it ever okay for an adult to have a secret relationship with a child, even if it's formed out of the best of intentions?
  2. Every relationship in the book is tinged with jealousy and/or envy. How is this played out in each of the relationships? Can jealousy ever be a positive thing? Does loving someone too much always lead to jealousy?
  3. How do you feel about Danni, June's mother? How much is she to blame for the events in the book?
  4. What did you make of June's special feelings for Finn? Have you ever felt the wrong kind of love for someone in your own life?
  5. "The sun kept on with its slipping away, ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a literary pleasure read. The crisp, short chapters and slightly funky (and therefore realistic) characters had me turning pages fast and late. Rifka Brunt's story treats a potentially morbid central topic with a surprisingly light touch. The AIDS-related death of a homosexual family member in Rifka Brunt's hands becomes the inciting incident of a whimsical, unconventional love story. She weaves teenage awkwardness, 1980s AIDS paranoia and domestic drama into an inexplicably happy narrative.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

Full Review Members Only (442 words).

Media Reviews

People

In this lovely debut novel set in the 1980s, Carol Rifka Brunt takes us under the skin and inside the tumultuous heart of June Elbus… Distracted parents, tussling adolescents, the awful ghost-world of the AIDS-afflicted before AZT - all of it springs to life in Brunt's touching and ultimately hopeful book.

Library Journal

Brunt's debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters.

Publishers Weekly

In [Tell the Wolves I'm Home], 15-year-old June must come to terms with the death of her beloved uncle Finn, an artist, from AIDS in 1980s New York… What begins as a wary relationship between former rivals for Finn's affection blossoms touchingly.

Kirkus Reviews

There is much to admire in this novel. The subtle insight on sibling rivalry and the examination of love make for a poignant debut.

Booklist

Starred Review. [A] transcendent debut… Peopled by characters who will live in readers' imaginations long after the final page is turned, Brunt's novel is a beautifully bittersweet mix of heartbreak and hope.

Wall Street Journal

Tremendously moving… Brunt strikes a difficult balance, imbuing June with the disarming candor of a child and the melancholy wisdom of a heart-scarred adult.

Author Blurb Rebecca Makkai, author of The Borrower
Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a tale as charming and magnetic as the missing character at its heart. It's a love story of the most unusual kind - several love stories, really - vivid and madly relatable, heartening as well as heartbreaking. Brunt is a captivating storyteller and a wonderful new voice.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home
June is such a wonderful character, a 14 yr. old trying to find her way and secure in the knowledge that she is loved by her Uncle Finn who dies of aids. This is a thought-provoking book about the complicated relationships in a family and how little ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

New York Locales in Tell the Wolves I'm Home

The characters in Tell the Wolves I'm Home visit numerous locations in New York City and Westchester County, New York, and the accuracy of Rifka Brunt's descriptions adds a rich flavor to the story. If you're the type of person who likes to travel to literary-inspired destinations, you might consider these three stops:

    The Cloisters
  • The Cloisters: June's favorite place to visit with Finn was The Cloisters, located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. These gardens and museum, which opened to the public in 1938, are a part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and feature the various architectural, artistic and stylistic designs of medieval Europe. The abbey, constructed using materials from five French medieval cloisters (Saint-Michel-de-...

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