Tell the Wolves I'm Home (Brunt)

Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Carol Rifka Brunt, 2012
Random House
368 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780679644194



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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Carol Rifka Brunt’s work has appeared in several literary journals, including North American Review and The Sun. In 2006, she was one of three fiction writers who received the New Writing Ventures award and, in 2007, she received 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 children. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
Tremendously moving.... Brunt strikes a difficult balance, imbuing June with the disarming candor of a child and the melancholy wisdom of a heart-scarred adult.
The Wall Street Journal


With this debut novel that flawlessly encapsulates the fragile years during the mid-'80s when the specter of AIDS began to haunt society at large, Carol Rifka Brunt establishes herself as an emerging author to watch.... Tell the Wolves I'm HOme will undoubtedly be this summer's literary sleeper hit.
Minneapolis Star Tribune


In this lovely debut novel set in the 1980s, Carol Rifka Brunt takes us under the skin and inside the tumultuous heart of June Elbus.... Distracted parents, tussling adolescents, the awful ghost-world of the AIDS-afflicted before AZT—all of it springs to life in Brunt’s touching and ultimately hopeful book.
People Magazine


Fourteen-year-old June is a loner whose favorite activity is going to the woods in her lace-up boots and Gunne Sax dress and pretending she's a medieval falconer. It's the 1980s, and the only person who understands June is her gay uncle Finn, a famous artist dying of AIDS. June's visits with him in New York listening to Mozart and exploring the city have made her older sister Greta jealous. A popular girl with a starring role in the school musical, Greta treats June cruelly, hiding her devastation that they are no longer best friends. In the end, Finn's final creation, a portrait he painted of June and Greta, along with his secret lover, Toby, serve to unite the sisters. Verdict: Brunt's debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters. —Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA
Library Journal


(Starred review.) [A] transcendent debut.... Peopled by characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned, Brunt’s novel is a beautifully bittersweet mix of heartbreak and hope.
Booklist


There is much to admire in this novel. The subtle insight on sibling rivalry and the examination of love make for a poignant debut.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Toby initiates a relationship with June that necessarily involves secrets kept from her parents. Can this ever be right? Is it ever okay for an adult to have a secret relationship with a child? Even if it's formed out of the best of intentions?

2. Every relationship in the book is tinged with jealousy and/or envy. How is this played out in each of the relationships? Can jealousy ever be a positive thing? Does loving someone too much always lead to jealousy?

3. “My mother gave me a disappointed look. Then I gave her one back. Mine was for everything, not just the sandwich”

Readers have said that they feel very negatively towards June's mother, Danni. How do you feel about her? How much is she to blame for the events in the book?

4. “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.”

How does this speak to the events in Tell the Wolves I'm Home? Can terrible things like AIDS ever result in small good things?

5. "You get into habits with people. Ways of being with them..."

Toby says this to June when they're talking about her relationship with Greta. Many sisters (and brothers) have fractious relationships as teenagers then grow up to be friends. Do you think that will be the case with Greta and June? Have you had an experience like this with your own sibling(s)?

6. If you were around in the late 80s, do you remember anything about your perception of AIDS and the fear surrounding the disease?

7. How has society's reaction to homosexuality changed over the last 25 years? Could this story have taken place in 2012?

8. Greta is older, more savvy and knows more than June, but June sometimes seems wiser than her sister. How is this so? Does knowledge always equal wisdom?

9. Do you think June will ever show Greta the secret basement room and the stash of Finn's paintings or will she always keep this to herself?

10. Do you blame June for what happens to Toby towards the end of the book? Do you think June will ever forgive herself for what happened that night?

11. Do you think the portrait was more beautiful before or after it was restored to its original state. Can a work of art ever be improved on by external additions or is the artist's vision and intention the most important aspect of art?

12. June would like to escape to the Middle Ages. All her favorite places are escapist in nature. Would June actually be happy if her wish of time travel was granted? How does that wish change over the course of the story? Is escapism ever valuable? How do you escape?
(Questions from author's website.)

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