Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Death, Pain, Loss and Grief in a Beautiful and Poignant Package

Tell The Wolves I'm HomeTell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't even know where to begin with a review of this book except to say that it was beautiful, painful, courageous and very difficult to read. But please do not take this to say that it is not an exceptional novel - the difficulty is not in that is bad, but rather that it takes so many terrible, heart wrenching and unthinkable subjects and forces you to SEE them, while at the same time realizing that you love these characters so much that you don't even care how hard it is to read. It often feels as though this novel is about nothing but death and pain, but I think the truth that should be taken from it is that while life is hard and painful and death is guaranteed, those who live their lives waiting and worrying about dying are wasting time that can be spent living.

June is 14 years old in 1986-87 - as a quiet, shy and somewhat quirky teenage, who of course has the beautiful and seemingly perfect old sister, Greta, to live up to, she finds her best friend and only real confidante in her Uncle Finn, an artist in New York City. But Finn's life is cut short by AIDS and June's world falls into a tailspin. In June's youthful mindset, she is not yet able to realize the pain that also befalls her family, and selfishly feels that the pain of losing Finn is hers and hers alone. Her relationships become more strained, particularly with her sister. She seeks solace in taking the leap of meeting and growing close to Toby, himself battling AIDS and, like June, is lost without Finn. Through the months following Finn's death, June is faced with truths she never wanted to admit, new knowledge of her family that can either tear them apart or bring them closer than ever, and the realization that the world does not in fact revolve around her. Her eyes begin to open to new concepts of love and loss and the fact that everyone is flawed, human - including herself. You can feel her standing at the bridge that separates her life of naive innocence from that of self-awareness and impending adulthood.

This is a coming of age story that centers around death, grief, confusion, growing, love, self-realization and acceptance of life and death, all through the eyes of a 14 year old girl who is of course also struggling with the normal trials and tribulations of being, well, a 14 year old girl. June is the central character, but all of the characters and the story itself are so well developed that you almost forget at times that this is her story and it just becomes their story.

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