Friday, July 11, 2014

Fiction Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

When my neighborhood book group recently chose Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, I knew very little about it. I was pleasantly surprised and was pulled right into the story and characters and transported back to the 1980’s for a wonderful coming-of-age story.

It’s 1987 and fourteen year-old June adores her artistic, quirky Uncle Finn. She feels like he’s the only person who truly understands her; kids at school think she’s distant and strange. She loves everything to do with medieval times, and Finn understands that and so much more. Her 16-year old sister, Greta, feels a bit left out of their special relationship, but she seems to be wrapped up in her own friends and activities and growing apart from June.

When Finn dies of AIDS, June is devastated. Her mom, Finn’s sister, is also upset but doesn’t want to talk about it. The whole family feels the stigma of Finn’s illness at a time when little was known about AIDS and lots of assumptions were made, so little is said about it. June notices a strange man at Finn’s funeral whom her parents tell her caused Finn’s death. A few days later, June receives a package containing a special teapot of Finn’s that was meaningful to the two of them, with a note from the man, Toby, asking her if they can meet.

At first, June is cautious and suspicious of this man who has been shunned by the rest of her family, but as the two get to know each other, she realizes that he is a connection to her beloved Finn, perhaps the only other person on earth who misses Finn as much as she does and understands the relationship they had. The two grow closer, as June and Greta seem to grow ever further apart, and their parents are wrapped up in their tax business during the busy season. Meanwhile, June worries that Greta is headed for trouble but doesn’t know how to reach out to her.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a compelling coming-of-age story with a likeable character, June, at its center who is struggling to come to terms not only with growing up but also with grieving and loss. The setting and time period are like an extra character in the novel, with a fascinating look back at a time of confusion and fear as the AIDS crisis grew. Our book group had plenty of topics to discuss with this engaging, emotionally rich novel about family, friendship, growing up, and healing.

355 pages, The Dial Press (an imprint of Random House)



  1. How do you think that teens today would react to this book? We remember what it was like to live during the AIDS crisis, today's kids don't. Even though AIDS still kills it doesn't seem to be in the news like it was in the 1980s.

    1. We talked about that during our book group, Anne - we all agreed it would be a great book for contemporary teens and young adults! Educational but also interesting for them since it is a teen narrator. Great cross-over book.