‘Tell The Wolves I’m Home’ by Carol Rifka Brunt

(‘Tell The Wolves I’m Home’ by Carol Rifka Brunt, 2013, Dial Trade Press/Random House)

In celebration of the fact that I’m going to a blogger meeting with Carol Rifka Brunt today I’ve unearthed my original review of her book. A post about the meeting will be up sometime this week!

I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.


Sometimes life will give you lemons, and sometimes life will give you inappropriate emotions that you are not equipped to deal with. You will feel love for people you shouldn’t, you’ll get turned on by things you shouldn’t, you’ll say all the wrong things and make an absolute fool of yourself and you’ll realize it’s not the end. That there is a life after all of that, and hopefully you will understand that nothing you could ever feel will make you inferior in any way.

Feelings are not right or wrong, necessarily. Mostly they just are. How we act on them is a whole different matter.

It’s the 80s, June Elbus is 14 and her uncle Finn has just died of aids, a disease that is still very new and largely taboo. June is devastated after her uncle’s death, according to her he was the only person in the world who really got her.

As with many other coming of age books, it deals with realizing your perception of the world is narrow, and that you will feel things that will confuse, wound and scar you, and that you can make it through anyhow. June not only loses her uncle, she loses her first love. Having buried this emotion (that, like the disease that killed Finn, is also taboo) so deep, she can no longer acknowledge it, she isolates herself with her grief, pushing her family and her sister farther and farther away. Then she meets Toby, Finns boyfriend (whom she never knew existed), and they strike up an uneasy friendship, but where June thought she was merely trying to keep Finn alive through Toby, she finds he might be the one person who understands exactly what she’s going through.

However, the prize of understanding is the knowledge that her uncle was not who she made him out to be. Is it too heavy a prize to pay?

I thought of all the different kinds of love in the world. I could think of ten without even trying. The way parents love their kids, the way you love a puppy or chocolate ice cream or home or your favorite book or your sister. Or your uncle. There’s those kinds of love and then there’s the other kind. The falling kind.

There are truly endless kinds of love, but keeping it hidden makes love difficult to live with. June’s love for Finn is a secret, and it makes her selfish, because she can only ever take and never give.

I had no idea how greedy my heart really was.

Her heart is not the only one that’s greedy. Caught up in her quest to keep Finn alive, she constantly mistakes her sister Greta’s unkindness for loathing, when in fact it is love that like her own, not acknowledged or reciprocated, turned into desperation.

The title refers to a painting of June and Greta done by Finn before his death. The two sisters used to be close, but now there’s only miscommunication between them, making their silent conversation, done by adding small details to the painting, all the more poignant.

I love this book because it’s about these things we feel that we are often afraid to own up to. It’s about feeling very deeply and moving on from an incredible loss. It’s learning to accept others, flaws and all, and picking up the broken pieces of the life you knew and putting it back together in a messier, but truer version of itself.

It will break your heart and mend it at the same time. It’s a beautiful, striking and well-written experience.


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