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.
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.
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.
I found this a compelling read. It is all about secrets, the secrets we keep from our nearest and dearest and the ones we strive to hide from ourselves.
Fourteen year old June Elbus has one true friend who understands her and with whom she shares a special bond, her Uncle Finn. When he dies she not only has to come to terms with her grief but has to deal with the bubbling to the surface of secrets that are not only held by her family - her mother (Finn's sister), her father and sister but secrets Finn held back from her.
The fractured relationship she has with her big sister, Greta, is well drawn out and believable, made the sadder when snippets of how close they once were come out.
June is an outsider with a teenagers low self esteem. She finds it hard to make friends and the friendship she had with her uncle leads to another that brings equal joy but ultimate heartbreak to her again. Along the way she learns a lot about her whole family and begins to understand what she couldn't/wouldn't see before.
The ending brought a tear to my eye, there is resolution for June and for Greta and to some extent her mother too. Secrets are found out but some are still held close as is always the way in life.
A very enjoyable read.
on 14 January 2013
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.
The story, set in New York State USA, mainly revolves around 14 yo June Elbus and her older sister, Greta. June is somewhat different to most girls of her age, in that she likes to imagine herself living back in time. So far back it is the Middle Ages in England. She likes to go off by herself to the woods to listen to what they say and to imagine herself in this other world. Her Uncle Finn, to whom she is devoted, is an artist whose favourite period is Medieval art.
Uncle Finn paints a portrait of the sisters because he is dying - of AIDS.
The book is set in the 1980's when AIDS was a bit of a taboo subject.
The story then goes on about June's obsessiveness with Uncle Finn, about meeting his 'special friend' (Finn was gay), about ups and downs with her sister.
The main theme I found was this total obsession of June for her Uncle and it made it a bit 'odd'. The book is not a page turner as it all felt a bit repetitive because of this obbessive theme which ran through most of the story.
The book I believe is marketed as Adult Reading, but I felt as the main characters were the teenage sisters, that is might be for the young adult/mid teen readers.
on 21 April 2014
After some Amazon searching for some new reads, I came across this book and thought I'd give it a go. To be honest, I wasn't sure after a third of the way through as I was thought it was a little slow and not really getting anywhere. But suddenly, after about 50% of the book I was gripped and the rest of it flew. June is a 15 year old who is devoted to her uncle Finn, but when he dies she befriends his 'special' friend Toby and so the story continues. What I particularly enjoyed about the book was June's relationship with Greta and the other interlinking relationships. The underlying story of Finn and his sister (June's mother Danni) was really heartbreaking.They really make the book what it is - a fabulous piece of writing.
on 2 May 2014
Growing up is so difficult and reading this made me realise this is so true for everyone. Relationships need constant attention and there has to be a lot of give and take. Some people are naturally selfish but they have to be made aware of this to have a better life.
Aids is a devastating illness that needs to be eradicated from this world. This story tells of the heartbreak it can leave behind but also the friendships that can be built from it.
I don't think this book is suitable for all ages but anyone that has been affected by this terrible disease should read it and I'm sure it will help them to see all sides of relationships.
Well written, thought-provoking, thank you Carol
on 31 January 2013
This is not something I wold have read, had it not been for a trusted friend recommending it to me and seeing the 5 star reviews.
This is essentially a love story. The love a 14 year old girl, June, has for her uncle, Finn, who has AIDS, and his partner, Toby. After the early death of Finn we see the relationship blossoming between June and Toby, which is beautiful to see. Finn was a famous artist and had painted a beautiful portrait of the two sisters as his final work.
June's sister, Greta, is two years older than her and is the sister from hell, playing cruel tricks on June and she does something completely unforgivable to June midway through the book (I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone) that made me completely despise her.
Greta is destined for stardom, starting with a role in Annie, but June is the geek of the family. The parents are very rarely at home as they are accountants and have a heavy workload sorting out taxes during the 'tax season'.
I felt the story is quite plodding in parts, but is beautifully written with characters that will stay with you long after you've finished the book. I was a little in love with Finn and his beautiful kind hearted partner, Toby.
I am pleased I read it and will long stay in my memory.
on 10 January 2013
It is the 1980s in New York. Finn Weiss, an artist, is dying of AIDS. In his final months he paints his sister's teenage daughters, June and Greta. The portrait and its meaning for the two girls portrayed is at the centre of this very moving story. June, the younger, less attractive and less gifted, is struggling as Greta grows up and away. She now loses her beloved uncle. Her mother and father have to work long hours and do not seem to be there for June. Into this narrative and emotional space enters Toby, Finn's lover, himself lost without Finn. Carol Rifka describes with real intensity and tenderness what would otherwise be an implausible if not impossible relationship between Toby and June. Through it June comes to understand herself, and Greta, and the many meanings of need and love. There are just a few cultural references -TV programmes, music etc. - to locate the story and no more than necessary. The author captures well the confusion about AIDS, and the fear of contagion, that was just beginning to dissipate. This has been described as a "coming of age" novel, which it is, and, perhaps more truly, about "first love"; however, June's spiritual and emotional journey took me, at any rate, much further.
By way of a postscript the medieval painting described by June, but not named, is Elsheimer's St Elizabeth.