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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful debut novel
This is a wonderful story about the close bond between a young girl, fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and her inspirational uncle, the noted artist Finn Weiss. He's the only person that June feels she can share her secrets with, and reveal her true self to. When Finn passes away, June finds herself adrift, wondering how her life can possibly go on without Finn being a part...
Published on 7 Jun. 2012 by L. H. Healy

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly sentimental and problematic yet strangely compelling
Back in the 1980s we had books from writers like Paul Monette and David Feinberg who wrote so eloquently and honestly about AIDS that they created a whole genre of fiction. I devoured those books. But that era seems a long time ago now. Things are different. Tell the Wolves I'm Home tries to take us back to a time when some people wrongly thought dying from a disease was...
Published 5 months ago by Androo


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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful debut novel, 7 Jun. 2012
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is a wonderful story about the close bond between a young girl, fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and her inspirational uncle, the noted artist Finn Weiss. He's the only person that June feels she can share her secrets with, and reveal her true self to. When Finn passes away, June finds herself adrift, wondering how her life can possibly go on without Finn being a part of it. Then June meets Finn's partner Toby, who has never been mentioned to June before, and a new friendship is slowly formed which will alter the way she views herself and her late uncle. They are both lonely, struggling to cope with life without Finn, united in the immense loss and grief they share.

It is also about siblings, and the changing relationship between June and Greta as they grow up, having lost the closeness they once shared, both wanting it back but seemingly unable to rediscover it from under all the layers of jealousy and misunderstanding.

This is a lovely, sincere, warm-hearted book, with a story rooted in the early days of AIDS awareness, when misconceptions abounded and most people didn't openly discuss the illness. It is about our perceptions of people, the judgements we make, and how we can discover so much about ourselves and those close to us through the most unlikely friendships and in the most unexpected places.

I found this a profoundly moving novel, and a highly accomplished and heartfelt debut.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and compassionate, 2 May 2012
By 
Jood (UK) - See all my reviews
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Fourteen-year-old June Elbus is not a typical teenager. Growing up in the late 1980's, she is shy and slightly geeky, daydreaming about living in medieval times, often disappearing into the local woods in an effort to make this a reality. The relationship with her older sister, Greta is now distant, and their parents are often absent from the scene as they immerse themselves in their work. The only person she is close to is her Uncle Finn; he is her best friend, her godfather, the only person who fully understands her. He introduces June to music, opera, theatre and art, and when Finn dies of a mysterious illness that no-one will discuss, June is grief-stricken. A few days after the funeral a man she has glimpsed briefly there hand delivers a package. Inside is the beautiful teapot she recognises as Finn's and a note from Toby, the stranger at the funeral asking June to meet him. So begins a strange and moving friendship, as June struggles to come to terms with her loss, a loss she is unable to discuss with anyone.

June's naivety is endearing, and that, along with her flashes of insight and wisdom make a compelling character. And who can help but love Finn and Toby? In fact all the characters are believable and sympathetic.

I loved this book not only for its beautifully written characters, but for its compassion. I was gripped from the first page and was actually quite sad to finish it and leave these people behind.

Most definitely an author to watch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different... Well-crafted and intelligent debut, 19 Mar. 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Very good; a moving and insightful story.

June's uncle is dying of AIDS. Before he dies, he paints a portrait of June and her sister Greta. June's family, including her increasingly bitter and distant sister, all blame his partner Toby for her uncle's death. June doesn't know what to think, and then she receives a letter from Toby asking to meet her.

Unique and beautiful, this book surprised me with the way the plot turned and flowed. There is a well-drawn relationship between the sisters, and plenty of characters to feel sympathy for and want to read more about. This isn't a choice for a light summer read but a great one for reading groups wanting to get their teeth into quite meaty issues; death, illness, family, love. What role does the painting of the sisters play in the book? It means different things to each person.
I couldn't understand the author's choice of setting though, as setting the story at the start of the AIDS epidemic didn't ring true. 80s references seemed forced in there to give the context, and I thought the idea of a family member dying from AIDS would have been almost the same now, as it was there seemed to be very little prejudice anyway from other characters towards the gay men. Just a few references to songs, books and films as well.
Still, the characters were robust and the ending bittersweet. I can almost see the painting...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful first novel, 1 Dec. 2012
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I found this novel had a haunting quality to it. A very easy read, I made myself slow down to savour its complexities.

I agree with much of the praise for this book. I especially liked the way that Carol Rifka Brunt helps us to see what it was that Finn saw in the two people he seemed to care most about in the world, his 14 year old niece June, and his lover of 10 years Toby. Neither at first meeting are particularly charismatic!

I love the light she casts on the complexities of bereavement, and the competitive feelings we can sometimes have about a dead person's affections. In fact, she's excellent at making you actually feel every situation her characters find themselves in.
This is quite a special ability in a novelist. All her characters are most sensitively treated.

Finn was forced by his sister to lie about his life, something that will be familiar to many gay people. Toby's resulting invisibility to June and the family was extremely movingly described and rather shocking, and made the final chapters all the more satisfying. So often in this novel, people have their own parallel worlds because it isn't OK to be yourself. I like the way only some of those worlds have been reconciled by the end of the book. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to find out how June's life works out and whether she fulfills the potential her uncle Finn clearly thought she had?

A wonderful first novel (should be 4.5 stars). Perhaps a little drawn out in the final chapters, but always an engrossing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Debut, 28 Nov. 2012
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Tell the Wolves I'm Home is Carol Rifka Brunt's extraordinary, literary debut novel set in New York in 1987. Narrated by 14 year old June Elbus, this is an engaging coming of age story filled with the highs and lows of family life. June is a bit of a nerd and doesn't quite fit in with her peers but she does have a special link with her Uncle Finn, the famous but now reclusive artist. When Finn dies, far too young, June discovers that she was not the centre of his universe but she shared that limelight with Toby, Finn's "special" friend.

As the story unfolds, June gradually gets to know Toby but she is still torn apart by jealousy, a bitter envy of the close relationship Toby had with Finn. Ironically her obsession has left her oblivious to how envious her older sister Greta is of her closeness to Finn. June's mother has mixed emotions about her brother, Finn for reasons which will eventually become clearer as the story progresses but the author doesn't tie everything up neatly, after all, family relationships are rarely straightforward.

I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful tale of a family coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. I'd forgotten how prehistoric some people's attitudes to AIDS were when it first hit the news headlines, indeed some folk have still not moved on! June's mother seems convinced that Toby killed Finn by giving him the AIDS virus but this is just another example of the mass hysteria which surrounded AIDS in the early days. The parents seem well-meaning but they work ridiculously long hours and June and Greta are left to their own devices most of the time - a recipe for disaster.

Each character is far from perfect, even the revered Finn whose very absence haunts the novel, even June, the misunderstood teen, who acknowledges that she has ulterior motives for some of her seemingly selfless actions. This is a beautifully written, slow moving story which needs to be savoured rather than rushed - a very impressive debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A THEMATIC TAPESTRY, 9 Sept. 2012
By 
Red Rock Bookworm (St. George Utah USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Carol Rifka Brunt has created a seductive cast of characters to populate TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME, a tale as unusual as the chemistry contained in its myriad relationships and stories Set in the 1980's, it addresses the pain and fear experienced by friends and family when a loved one was diagnosed with the AIDS virus . Narrated by fourteen year old June Elbus, this perceptive portrayal of a frayed family advances a multi-faceted look at the grieving process and the assiduous effort required in navigating the often choppy waters in the process we refer to as "growing up".

June's Uncle Finn is the AIDS infected artist, and has decided to paint one last picture. It is a portrait of his two nieces Greta and June which he has titled it TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME . The paintings title refers to the almost invisible wolf shaped space separating the paintings two subjects. It could also refers to the pain of separation that eats at each of the books characters like a ravenous wolf: Finn's self imposed separation from the art world, his sister's (the girl's mother) withdrawal and separation from Finn's life, the separate lives lived by each member of the Elbus family, the compulsory separation of Finn and his significant other Toby, Toby's separation from his country and finally, and finally the way that grieving sometimes causes us to erect a barrier to protect and separate us from further hurt.
The Uncle Finn character appears stoic and unruffled as he confronts his disease and nurtures his relationship with god-daughter June which makes his death all the more devastating to her. Toby, also a victim of the dreaded AIDS virus, remains a shadow figure until after Finn's death at which time he enters June's life and slowly attempts to convince June to share their memories of Finn so that both may attain some sort of healing and closure.

June's sister Greta is a fragmented and very fragile character although she tries to appear very strong and in control. Only sixteen, she is a senior in high school, possesses an amazing vocal and acting talent and attempts to compensate for the fact that she is more than a little damaged and living far beyond her comfort zone by subjecting June to malicious tricks and hurtful taunts concerning their Uncle Finn.

The parents are noticeably detached and absent both physically and emotionally and have chosen the burdens of their jobs as a convenient excuse for having turned their daughters into what could only be described as "latch-key kids".

This is a beautiful novel that explores the various relationship aspects of love, betrayal, loss and ultimate healing. A great read whether your 16 or 60.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an extraordinary novel of recent history, 19 Aug. 2012
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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In the tradition of Frankie, Adams, Scout Finch and the various Zindel hero(ine)s June Elbus is approaching the age where she not only discovers Love but also its many shades and colours.

Recovering from grief after the untimely death of a favourite uncle and confidant June suspects that the world from which she has so far been protected is both more exciting and more dangerous than she had been led to believe. She sees through The Big Lie guided by the spirit of Finn Weiss, artist extraordinaire and Toby, Finn's life partner.

This extraordinary debut is an historical novel set in the blindsighted 80's; history is a distancing device here as it is, to modern eyes, appalling to witness the ignorance and prejudice surrounding the early recognition and treatment of AIDS in America.

The book's natural power lies in the perspective of June's narration, her understanding of love and family, of, perhaps, necessary lies and deceit and in doing so is able to form her own slightly fractured identity previously seen only through the eyes and opinions of others.

Her Love for Finn, her dead uncle, is slowly unravelled as she learns of him through Toby, who is the secret heart of the book. Adolescent angst has rarely been so well examined as in this stunning new novel that I can only hope becomes as standard a text as others I have quoted above.

The title of the book, the thing that originally intrigued me, is the title of Finn's double portrait of June and her sister and "the wolf" being a mysterious shape between the two figures, this can be interpreted in many ways as deeply symbolic of the gulf between the siblings, that scary monster so often just glimpsed outside of our blindspots or the beast within us all that needs to be tames through knowledge and understanding

I feel that this author's name will be mentioned for a long time to come
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tender story, 23 May 2012
By 
C. Colley (Lincs) - See all my reviews
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This story surrounds June Elbus, a young girl whose world is turned upside down when her uncle Finn, a renowned painter, dies of AIDS. After Finn's funeral, June strikes up a friendship with Toby, a man who was close to Finn, but also the man who June's family blames for Finn's death. In secret, the two begin spending time together. This story beautifully portrays their friendship as they struggle to cope with the loss of Finn. June discovers new things about Finn that she was never part of when he was alive.
Prior to his death, Finn had just finished a portrait of June and her sister Greta. The painting, which is at the centre of the story helps to repair June and Greta's difficult relationship. Family secrets are slowly revealed which help them to forgive and move on.
I cannot praise this book enough. I adored the characters and the story. The story is told in a gentle way and deals with very moving and difficult issues. To really enjoy the lovely writing, this book needs to be savoured and not rushed.
I'm very positive this book will be one of my favourites in 2012.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning debut novel, 13 July 2012
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
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Wow, what a great book

I was gripped with this book from the first few pages as it was beautifully written and full of heart rending compassion for June, the main character who although is 14 is not a typical teenager but a complex individual struggling with a challenging family. June is closest though her Uncle and when he mysteriously dies June is devastated.

An encounter after the funeral starts a moving but unusual friendship which helps as June battles with her grief and navigate through the aftermath.

The characters in this book are so believable and so likeable that I did not want the story to end, it was compelling, thought provoking and absolutely charming. To say this is a debut novel is amazing and I for one will look forward to the next book from this author.

So may books are easy to read but not very engaging, but this book drew me in and kept me there as the pages flew past.... excellent read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and a tense tight storyline that maintains realism throughout., 24 Nov. 2014
By 
A. I. McCulloch "Andrea" (Co Durham) - See all my reviews
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This had an extremely original storyline - a teenage girl befriends the man that her family hold responsible for the death of her beloved and supremely talented uncle.

It's a beautifully written book with superbly well developed characters that never ring a false note. The AIDS fears of the mid to late Eighties are perfectly re-evoked and the time captured very well. It was a shock to realise that what many of us think of as recent events will be unfamiliar to anyone under thirty and hazy to anyone under thirty-five, so this book may well be introducing the subject to a new audience.

Carol Rifka Brunt makes you care about the characters, makes you care what happened and hope for good outcomes against hope. The relationship between June and her sister Greta is wonderfully realistic, there is nothing candy coated in this story, just superb reflections on human nature.
Definitely worth reading.
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Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
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