“The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible.”
Carol Rifka Brunt’s heart wrenching novel begins by introducing 14 year old June Elbus. June is a self proclaimed “weird” girl who enjoys venturing into the woods behind her school and imagining that she lives in the Middle Ages. There is only one person who really understands June and all her weirdness and that is her Uncle Finn. Finn is a world renowned painter who is also gay. June finds out at the beginning of the novel that Finn has AIDS and is dying. Before he dies, Finn is determined to paint a portrait of June and her older sister which requires weekly visits to his New York apartment.
Set in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, June’s mother forbids her from meeting or being around Uncle Finn’s “special friend.” It is not until he dies that June finds out about Finn’s boyfriend, Toby. Her mother continues to forbid her from seeing Toby, but June is determined to hang on to Finn’s memory and meeting with Toby is the only way she knows how to do that. While her family believes that Toby is a murderer, June seeks to learn all about Toby and the life he lived with her uncle.
This novel was a little slow in the beginning, but once I got about a fourth of the way in, I could not put it down. While June has a special relationship with her Uncle Finn, who is also her godfather, this novel is more about the forbidden relationship that June develops with Toby after Finn’s death. It is also about June’s relationship with her mean older sister who used to be her best friend. In a nutshell, this is a story about many different types of relationships and how they shape our lives. While sad, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a book you will not want to miss.