Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME’


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OPENING LINE:

‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ is a book all about the complexities of relationships.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.
1987. 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. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life – someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.
Carol Rifka Brunt’s work has appeared in several literary journals, including the North American Review and the Sun. In 2006 she was one of three fiction writers who received a New Writing Ventures Award, and in 2007 she received a generous Arts Council England 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 children.
©2012 Carol Silverman (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.


THE PLOT:

June Elbus is a typical 14-year-old. She has not found her way in the world, she does not feel like she fits in with the people around her. Close with her older sister as children, they have drifted apart over the years. She is shy, moody and lacks self confidence. All of these things are true even despite the companionship and love she has for her uncle, Finn Weiss.
When Finn dies of AIDS, June must add grief to her list of problems. She struggles at times to admit it in the book but eventually comes to realize that her uncle Finn was her first true love. The struggle is less about her feelings and more about what those feelings say about her.
Though Finn is gone, he ensures that June is not alone. He makes two requests, one of June and one of his boyfriend Toby. He asks each to look out for the other because both are all alone. It is these two requests that serve to bring Toby and June together and to bond them as friends.
It is Finn who is the catalyst for all of the action in the novel. It is Finn’s relationship with his own sister (June’s mother) that has impacted the way she deals with her two children. She, like Finn, was an artist but unlike Finn, eventually gave it up for accounting and her family. It is that decision that sometimes keeps June’s mother from being more of an active force in her life, especially around tax season.
It is Finn’s relationship with June that drives a wedge between June and her older sister. Greta Elbus is jealous of the relationship that June had with Finn and because Greta herself had been skipped a grade in school, she feels part of her childhood was stripped from her prematurely.
‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ is the title of Finn’s last painting before his death. It is a painting of June and Greta that is meant to keep them together in a way that Finn was not able to stay together with his own sister. In the end, it is Toby, a man barely spoken of by the family and the man blamed for infecting Finn with AIDS, who brings the sisters back together once more.
If the plot summary and my own description sound a little complicated, that is definitely intentional. The relationships between the characters in this book are as complicated as the ones we have in real life. June and Greta’s relationship can seemingly shift on a dime, depending on circumstances and mood. June must navigate through her relationship with Toby that begins jealousy, anger and contempt on her part but turns into a deep friendship and love for one another based on their grief over the loss of Finn.
‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ has aspects that can be related to by almost everyone. Anyone with siblings can relate to the shifting tides in June and Greta’s relationship. Anyone who has ever had to cope with a loved one’s loss, especially if that loved one was in the prime of life, can relate to the grief. I was never a teenage girl but I related to some of the issues that June faced simply because she was a teenager. This really is a fine example of a coming of age story.


THE AUTHOR:

‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ is the first full length novel for Carol Rifka Brunt. Brunt does a good job of painting the picture of the complex relationships that exist, form and evolve throughout the story. She also does a good job of capturing the feel of the 1980s. At least in so far as the fear that AIDS brought throughout the decade.
So much about AIDS was unknown in the 1980s and that led to a lot of fear and misunderstandings. It is regrettable in some ways but not entirely hard to understand. AIDS was a mysterious disease that was a death sentence for anyone who contracted it. The fear of the disease and what would happen if you were to contract it had a lot of people on edge. That’s what tends to happen to people when they view their lives as at risk. Were a lot of the AIDS myths totally unfounded and look ridiculous now? Yes, but that is only true because of hindsight and further research. Living in that time and place when more was unknown than was known is a different matter. I thought a lot about this while reading this book and it is a credit to the author that she was able to put me back in the earliest years of my life.
Her understanding of the complexities of relationships and how people relate to one another and their need to come to terms with their own feelings and grief are the things that I like in an author. How Toby and June are brought together seems a little far fetched but all of the interactions that they have with one another feel real to the situation. That helps to make an extraordinary tale feel more ordinary. I will definitely read more of Brunt’s work in the future.


THE NARRATION:

Amy Rubinate does a wonderful job with her narration. She has a very soft voice that is easy to listen to and one that I can’t wait to hear again. She does a good job conveying the emotional gravity of any given scene, especially the teenage angst of both June and Greta that is present throughout the story. At times, when she was speaking for June, I had to remind myself that the studio did not hire a 14-year-old girl to read that part.


THE PRODUCTION:

There are no music cues or other sound effects to be found on the track. The book has 66 chapters and there are 66 chapter stops to be found on the track.
The track is not clean, however. There are a few instances where it sounds as though lines have been spliced in after the fact. An example of what I mean could be heard at the 3:10 to 3:25 minute mark of Chapter 3 of the book. That timeframe allows you to hear a little of the part before and after the line that feels spliced in. I don’t actually believe any lines were spliced in after the fact but it does have that sound, like there is a difference in Rubinate’s voice. This effect lasts for maybe a sentence at a time when it occurs. A few of these sound oddities are sprinkled in different parts of the book. I heard it again in Chapter 8 as well. It may be that my hearing is extra sensitive to this type of thing which is why I noticed that something was happening and that most listeners wouldn’t notice anything unless it had been pointed out to them.
These sound oddities are not only short but they are also few and far between. So they aren’t going to serve much of a distraction if you do notice them.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

I wasn’t sure, going in if I was going to enjoy ‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ or not. But I actually ended up liking it quite a bit. This book is in part about how people handle or don’t handle grief over the loss of a loved one. It is also partly about sibling relationships and how they can change over time. It is about jealousy, love and devotion.
As strange as it seems, I think this story may have had less appeal to me had it been set in a decade other than the 1980s. As someone who was born in 1981, I have vague memories of a lot of the AIDS controversies brought up in the story and am a fan of some of the other 1980s pop culture references.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Tell the Wolves I’m Home Carol Rifka Brunt Amy Rubinate Blackstone Audio, Inc. Literary Fiction 08/07/2012 11 hours, 46 minutes 8.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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