Currently Reading: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

I began Tell the Wolves I’m Home last December, during the holidays. I read only a handful of chapters before putting it aside, not to be resumed until now. I think post-Christmas blues and/or New Year anxiety made me less than eager to pursue a sad and emotional read. But it’s now Spring, and after the teenage love saga of Eleanor & Park, I wanted to read a story with a wider scope, not just two teenagers, not just home-school bus-school, on repeat.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel of Carol Rifka Brunt, born in New York and now living in England. She introduces us to social pariah June Elbus, whose coming-of-age is darkened by the AIDS-related death of her uncle, Finn Weiss. Finn, a talented painter, is her godfather, best friend, and soul mate. He is the person who buys cassette tapes of Mozart’s Requiem, all four versions, so that he and June can decide which one is the best. He brews tea in a Russian tea pot and takes her to the Cloisters on Sundays and teaches her the difference between being “romantic” and being “a romantic.” Upon his death, June finds herself completely alone. A few weeks after the funeral, June receives Finn’s treasured tea pot in the mail, which includes a letter from a mystery man named Toby. Toby writes that June may be the only person in the world who misses Finn as much as he does.
Beautiful details are easily woven into the story. There is a scene when June, her sister Greta, and their mother select a frame for Finn’s final painting, a portrait of June and Greta. June observes that each frame changes everything about the painting. The “plain black wooden frame” makes everything look “sarcastic.” June prefers Tuscan Gold, as it looks “old-fashioned,” like it “could go right into a museum.” They eventually pick a “medium brown with beveled edges,” as it “seemed to disappear around the canvas, letting the painting be itself.” The details of the story are given just as much life as the characters. Here’s to being in the midst of a stunning read.

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