Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review: "Tell the Wolves I'm Home" by Carol Rifka Brunt

Provided via Edelweiss - Publisher: The Dial Press- Release Date: 6/19/12

An unforgettable literary debut for fans of Aimee Bender and Charles Baxter, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the story of an unlikely friendship between two lost souls—a lonely girl and a mysterious stranger—and the ways in which their lives become intertwined as they each try to come to terms with their grief.

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. So when he dies far too young of a mysterious illness that her mother can barely bring herself to discuss, June’s world is turned upside down.

At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering just beyond the edges of the crowd, and a few days later, June receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, inviting her to meet up with him at a local train station. As it turns out, June isn’t the only one who desperately misses Finn, and the unlikely friendship that springs up between these two lost souls will break your heart, even as it heals theirs.

CAROL RIFKA BRUNT’s work has appeared in various literary journals and she is the recipient of several grants including the New Writing Ventures Award and a generous Arts Council grant to write Tell the Wolves I’m Home, her first novel. Originally from New York, she currently lives in England with her husband and three kids.

“I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.”

“I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they'd be.”

“Because maybe I don't want to leave the planet invisible. Maybe I need at least one person to remember something about me.”

“I really wondered why people were always doing what they didn't like doing. It seemed like life was a sort of narrowing tunnel. Right when you were born, the tunnel was huge. You could be anything. Then, like, the absolute second after you were born, the tunnel narrowed down to about half that size. You were a boy, and already it was certain you wouldn't be a mother and it was likely you wouldn't become a manicurist or a kindergarten teacher. Then you started to grow up and everything you did closed the tunnel in some more. You broke your arm climbing a tree and you ruled out being a baseball pitcher. You failed every math test you ever took and you canceled any hope of ever being a scientist. Like that. On and on through the years until you were stuck. You'd become a baker or a librarian or a bartender. Or an accountant. And there you were. I figured that on the day you died, the tunnel would be so narrow, you'd have squeezed yourself in with so many choices, that you just got squashed.”

What a touching and lovely story. Tell the Wolves I'm Home had me alternating between hope and despair, laughter and tears and generally a looking like a hot mess to anyone not reading over my shoulder or reading my mind.

This story of a young girl losing her beloved uncle takes place in a time (not so long ago) when a homosexual lifestyle was marginally accepted, but still kept under wraps for propriety's sake. In other words: we accept your choice, but let's not discuss it in front of the children because we still secretly think you're a perv no matter what we tell you to the contrary.

And if you were unlucky enough to catch the "Gays' Disease," you were barely able to be around children, much less let them know the nature of your illness. I grew up in this time and I remember it vividly. It is amazing to me how far we have come in terms of acceptance of alternate lifestyles, as well as how far we still have to go.

Through a series of misunderstandings and conscious lies, June is kept from fully knowing her precious uncle. So, after his death, when his friend tries to form a relationship with her, she is leery. Through patience and love Toby slowly creates a tenuous friendship with June that helps them both heal from the pain of their mutual loss.

Brunt has created a timeless tale that speaks with an honest voice about loss, family, love, fear, hope and friendship. Tell the Wolves I'm Home truly touched my heart in a profoundly beautiful way.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a 2012 Steph's Stacks Fave. Click here for more of my favorite must-reads of the year!


  1. I love how you discuss the conscious lies told to June. I really appreciated that part of the coming-of-age for June. I also love the way your blog is designed - glad I found ya!

  2. It is SO wonderful. I thought it would be too serious in the midst of this Harry Potter explosion, but NOPE.

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

    Marlene Detierro (Renton's River Adventures, Inc.)



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