04 July 2013

Books: Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)

It’s early 1987 in Westchester, NY and there's really one person who understands 14-year-old June Elbus—and it's not anybody at her suburban high school. Nor is it her nice but boring accountant parents or her older sister, Greta, who has recently "turned mean." The only one who "gets" June—who understands her need to wander the woods wearing Greta's old Gunne Saxe dress—is her mother's gay painter brother, Finn. And he's dying of a disease just starting to have a name. After Finn dies, Junie begins to learn the truth about her Uncle; she learns who Finn really was. And who was the tall man with the sad eyes who was banned from Finn’s funeral? Why is her mother so conflicted and why has Greta become so cruel and so distant? For June these questions and many more need to answered, even though her heart is breaking for the loss of her beloved uncle and godfather. 

There is much to love about Tell The Wolves I’m Home, the authors innate ability at turning a poetic phrase being her great talent. The narrative flows and you kind of can’t book the down because you want to know what happens, even though at times I was annoyed by June. 

And while all the characters are somewhat damaged –except Dad, who remains a cipher through the entire book- the cruelty seems a bit excessive. Hey, families are not perfect, I realize, but June seems to 58 year-old woman disappointed with how her life turned out, even though she’s a teenager. The point is, I was getting a bit tired of her doom and gloom outlook on life by the end.

Still, the novel is an emotionally charged coming-of-age story that paints a vibrant picture of a girl caught between being a child and the unknown aspect of adulthood, and Brunt does a good job painting all of June’s emotions. Despite some maudlin passages towards the end, the book is a worthy debut.

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