2013: Tell the Wolves I'm Home

My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

The story of me reading this book is a success story for brick and mortar bookstores.  I went to Barnes & Noble to get magazines for our stockings,* and not only went bonkers with magazines and other stocking stuffers (my husband is now the owner of a tiny Dalek to sit on his desk), but couldn't resist picking up a few books for myself.  When I was a kid, my parents always took us to this crazy book warehouse somewhere on the South Shore** and let us buy a whole ton of books, which they would then wrap up as Christmas presents.  To this day I have many of those books in my collection - its where I got all my Sayers, my portable Dorothy Parker - and I always bought at least one "good for me" book, so a whole stack of classics that we own came from there too (in the Bantam edition!).  Most years, my husband sets me loose at at Barnes and Noble before Christmas, so I can do the same thing, but this year (big surprise) we've been so overwhelmed it didn't happen.  Which is a long way of saying I felt super justified in buying myself three books on my stocking stuffer trip.

What were we talking about again? Oh yes, Tell the Wolves I'm Home.  Bought it because it was on a table at Barnes and Noble.  Never heard of it - though it touts itself as a New York Times bestseller.  Thought the premise sounded good.  Was correct.  The book was amazing and heartbreaking and lovely.  You've probably heard of it - I live under a rock - but if you haven't get it and read it.

It's set in 1987.  June Elbus is in mourning, because the person she loves most in the world - her amazing uncle Finn, has just died of AIDS.  Her sister, Greta, is constantly angry with her, her mother is both distant due to her own loss and overwhelmed by tax season (she's an accountant), and June feels totally alone as she tries to process her loss.  So when a friend of Finn's contacts her, asking to meet, she secretly does it - and it changes her life forever.  

So, I'm not capturing it well in the plot blurb, but this is a beautiful book.  It's a coming of age story, sure, but more than that its about relationships - between family and friends - and so much about siblings (both June and Greta and her mother and Finn)- and its about dealing with ones feelings (especially the ones you feel are wrong), and its about love.  Objectively, I can look back and quibble with it - for example, Finn is so special and perfect that it seems a bit ridiculous (he's the perfect uncle! He's a world famous artist!), but when reading - or even thinking about the book - the quibbles fall away.  The emotion in the book is so real that the questions I have with the plot don't matter.  This book wasn't what I expected - something about the way they wrote the blurb made me think it would be more magical/mysterious - but it's better.  It's real.  Do yourself a favor and read it.

*When I was little Santa always put a brand new magazine in our stocking, and my husband informed me that that was the greatest tradition he had ever heard of.  So now Santa does it at our house, too.  

**Research suggests it was the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton - only felt like the South Shore to this Cape Ann girl.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017