Tell the Wolves I’m Home
by Carol Rifka Brunt
This tender story is about June Elbus, a 14-year-old whose best friend is her eccentric Uncle Finn. It’s set in New York City in 1987 at the height of the AIDS crisis. Finn passes away from the disease and June is left reeling. She loses her bearings when he dies and she begins to question so many things she’s always taken for granted.
Greta is June’s talented older sister; the opposite of her in every way. The relationship between them is tenuous and strained. Most teenage sisters go through this period, but everything is heightened by this unexpected grief. There’s something visceral about dealing with grief while you are still trying to figure out who you are. The grief shapes you in some ways, it’s an undeniable guiding force on your formative years. It influences the way you see the world. Most teens feel invincible, but when you lose someone at that age I think it makes you understand that nothing in this world is permanent and it effects your actions for the rest of your life.
One thing that stood out to me in the novel is the way the author beautifully conveys the raw vulnerability of your early teen years. It is so easy to feel childish and immature or self-conscious. You are balancing on the cusp of adulthood and you have the desperate desire to be both an adult and a child and it’s so hard to navigate that change. I remember being embarrassed by things I didn’t understand or things I felt. That embarrassment can quickly turn to defensiveness and the people who you’ve been closest to, your family, somehow become the enemy over night.
BOTTOM LINE: This book touched my heart in such a real way. I would highly recommend it and the audio is particularly good.
“That's the secret. If you always make sure you're exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won't care if you die tomorrow.”
“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.”
Pair with a viewing of the 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Also watch Angels in America the 2003 miniseries version of the award-winning two part play. It stars everyone from Meryl Streep to Al Pacino and is a fictional account of the AIDS crisis from multiple points of view. It’s not that the novel is only about AIDS, but the documentary and miniseries give you some context for the atmosphere of fear that surrounded the disease in the 1980s.