Book 73: Tell the Wolves I’m Home: a novel by Carol Rifka Brunt

It’s 1987 and June’s uncle has AIDS (or, The AIDS, as the bank teller calls it). Gay men are stereotyped as mesh-wearing, plague-carrying, sinning vermin of society. But Uncle Finn…he isn’t like that. He serves his sister and nieces hot tea from a vintage Russian teapot, he paints the most beautiful art, and he is oh, so loving. And he is June’s first true love, though she would never tell him, or anyone else.

As usual, [the TV news report] started out with footage of a bunch of gay men dancing around in stupid leather outfits….It would have been nice if for once they showed some guys sitting in their living rooms drinking tea and talking about art or movies or something. If they showed that, then maybe people would say, ‘Oh, okay, that’s not so strange.’

But Finn dies, leaving June all alone. Her big sister Greta is a local star on the stage, her parents are accountants (leaving her and Greta “orphans” during tax season), and her friends are more like old memories, they show up now and again leaving her happily nostalgic yet lonely. June’s life is dull and sad…until Finn’s partner, Toby, shows up at the funeral, at her door, at her school, asking to be a part of her life. Asking if she needs anything, wants anything, if she will just talk to him a while. You see, Finn left Toby behind, too. And the two recluses begin a friendship built on jealousy, shared love, and a promise.

The relationships that Brunt writes in Tell the Wolves I’m Home are so spot-on, you would think she was each of these characters. Having had a very difficult childhood relationship with my own sister, this book resonated with me. June’s bitter feelings towards her sister were deserved, and so were Greta’s towards June’s…but only experience and regret can open a woman’s eyes to that reality. I wish my own sister and I had read about June and Greta when we were 14 and 16, instead of figuring it out when we were in our early 20s. To think of all the years that misguided and misunderstood anger could have give us back…

…all the jealousy and envy and shame we carried was our own kind of sickness. As much a disease as Toby and Finn’s AIDS.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home has the power to transform. Women who are still holding on to grudges, and teenaged girls who are just developing them, can learn from June, Greta, their mother, Finn, and, most important, themselves. I cannot wait to recommend this book to the women in my life who need to know that they aren’t the only June in the world. And to teens girls who see love as sex and lust, but who should see love as patient, kind, understanding, and compassionate.

2 Thoughts

  1. You could not be more right about the relationships in this book. I adore the relationships and they really make sense to me. June’s relationship with Greta and June and her mother are so spot on. I have 70 pages left and I’m really worried about what’s happening with Greta. I’m a little scared to finish it! Thank you for this review!

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