Originally published May 2014
So many good books, not enough time.
I have a stack of “bucket list” books on my bedside table that I use as my go-to for a read when I am in between new releases or the latest Rob Lowe memoir (which I am STILL waiting on queue for from the library, damnit.) The stack is made up of books I have been meaning to get to—truly—but the time suck that is kids, marriage and a full-time job keep me from reading a book a day.
Carol Rifka Brunt’s “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” is a debut novel that garnered high praise and was included on a bunch of “Best Of” lists in the last year or so. And it’s got an 80s theme going, so I was intrigued. It’s well worth the read, indeed.
As the parent of teens in this day and age, it’s hard to imagine letting a 14-year-old head off into the city—New York City—on her own. But June Elbus isn’t your ordinary teen, and the 80s were a different time. June’s first real—and admittedly wrong—love was her Uncle Finn, artist and free spirit brother to her mother, Danni. When Finn dies as the result of AIDS, the blame is placed at the feet of Toby, Finn’s longtime love. It’s Toby that reaches out to June, and June that eventually warms to the idea of a friendship with Toby, if only because it’s what Finn wanted.
The book isn’t singular in its dissection of relationships—we get a peek into Danni and Finn’s relationship, juxtaposed against that of June and her 16-year-old sister, Greta. Greta is a hot mess, people. In over her head and spewing venom any chance she can at June, who would rather just fade into the background than stand center stage with her more popular sister. It was painful to read, really. I think back to the sometime awful way I treated my sister (well, and my brother, too) growing up, and wishing I could take it back. We were all struggling with the tortuous process of growing up. Situations are temporary. Siblings are forever.
Finn is the thread that connects the characters, and his last known piece of art is how many of them communicate with each other—silently and in secret, it’s this last gift from Finn that allows June and Greta to bridge the gulf between them. A really quite beautiful story. Add it to your bucket list if you can.