Pairing Books with Movies: Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Friday, June 14, 2013

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.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Well I've got two kids in my house of this age, and I see these emotions and behaviors on a daily basis. I try really hard to remember how confusing it is to be a teenager, trying to figure out who you are and navigate all those adult issues. It is grueling to watch them go through it!

Anonymous said...

This book. I loved it so much and I've wanted to reread it approx. 600 times but I loved it so much I sent my copy to my grandmother so she could love it too. It's so good.

Penelope Sanchez said...

Great review! This is one of my favorite reads for 2012. June was fabulous, and Toby and Finn just about broke my heart.

Rowena Hailey (Washington Personal Injury Attorney)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - That's such a good point. This book wouldn't have been the same if it had an older narrator. We needed June's innocence and vulnerability.

Jennysbooks - It was one of those that just sticks with you after you finish it.

Rowena Hailey - It may end up being one of my favorite reads this year too!

Roof Beam Reader said...

Have you read Angels in America? I love that play (well, plays), but I do think they did a pretty decent job with the film adaptation.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Adam - It took me forever to find copies of both parts of the play. I finally found both copies and it's sitting on my TBr shelf now. I can't wait to read it.