Monday, November 11, 2013
Book Review: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Library Copy
This book would be rated: PG-13
The year is 1987, and June's Uncle Finn is dying of AIDS. His last wish is to paint a portrait of fourteen-year-old June and her sister Greta. This portrait is just about the only place where June and Greta seem united these days-- Greta seems too worldly, too experienced, and June can't think about much but Finn. When he dies, she feels all one, until Finn's partner, Toby, the one the family thinks murdered him, reaches out to her.
While the story itself is well-written and heart-wrenching, and truly one of the best books I've read this year, what makes the book so great for me is the way that the author captures the atmosphere of 1987. I'm a few years younger than June and also grew up within train-riding distance of Manhattan, and Brunt gets it exactly right. I will never forget the first time I read about AIDS in LIFE Magazine. I was probably ten, and I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die of AIDS because the article talked about how AIDS was transmitted by bodily fluids, and I spent so much time swimming at the beach, peeing in the ocean, and occasionally swallowing ocean water. Imagine living in that time and place, and feeling those feelings, and loving someone with the disease more than you loved anyone else, ever. And after he dies, having someone else, also dying of AIDS, come into your life, and falling in love with him, too. The end of the book felt somewhat implausible to me, but I loved June and Greta and Toby and really loved the world that Brunt recreated on the page for me.