Book Review: “Tell the Wolves I’m Home”


Tell The Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel of American writer Carol Rifka Brunt, published by Random House in 2012. It follows the life of a girl whose gay uncle had died of AIDS in the 1980s, and the subsequent friendship she develops with his boyfriend.

“That’s what being shy feels like.  Like your skin is too thin, the light too bright.  Like the best place I could possibly be is in a tunnel far under the cool dark earth.  Someone asks me a question and I stare at them, empty-faced, my brain jammed up with how hard I’m trying to find something interesting to say.  And in the end, all I can do is nod and shrug, because the light of their eyes looking at me, waiting for me, is just too much to take.  And then it’s over and there’s one more person in the world who thinks I’m a complete and total waste of space.  The worst thing is the stupid hopefulness.  Every new party, every new bunch of people, and I start thinking that maybe this is my chance.  That I’m going to be normal this time.  A new leaf.  A fresh start.  But then I find myself at the party, thinking, ‘Oh, yeah.  This again.’  So I stand on the edge of things, crossing my fingers, praying nobody will try to look me in the eye.  And the good thing is, they usually don’t.”

“The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible.”

“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.”

RifkaBrunt_Tell-the-Wolves“I feel 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.”

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home,” by Carol Rifka Brunt, tells the story of June Elbus, a fourteen-year-old growing up in the eighties who feels out of step with her practical accountant parents, her more mature-more savvy-and sometimes cruel fifteen-year-old sister, boys, and parties.  When her best friend and kindred spirit Uncle Finn succumbs to his battle with aids, June grieves the one person who appreciated her love for medieval things, her shyness, and observant nature.  When Finn’s secret lover Toby reveals himself to her, she must choose whether to bond with the man Finn loved or reject him like the rest of her family.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is very much a book about relationships, none of which are simple, and how a fourteen-year-old learns to love the people in her life who each demand something different.  IMG-2224As a reader and critic, I loved June.  She is deep, thoughtful, and genuinely struggles to give people her best.  She makes mistakes, but she learns how to accept her own feelings and the people around her, as hard as they sometimes make it.

At times, I wanted more resolution between June and some of the other characters.  I wanted to know more about why some characters did what they did, and even what they did when June wasn’t observing them.  However, I understand that this is June’s story, and we are meant to see “the wolves” in her life from her eyes and accept them in the way that she has too. carol rifka burnettCarol Rifka Brunt paints a beautiful picture of grief, love, and perception in her debut novel.














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