Tell the Wolves I’m Home
By Carol Rifka Brunt
The Dial Press
Jane Elbus is a teenage girl living in Westchester in the 1980s when her favorite uncle, Finn, a visual artist, dies of AIDS. Alienated from her older sister Greta, and distanced from her accountant parents, who are swamped with tax season, Jane strikes up a friendship with Finn’s ex, Toby, a man she never met while Finn was alive, because her parents think Toby “murdered” her uncle by giving Finn AIDS. The story begins right before Finn’s death. He was an accomplished artist who never made as much of his talent as he could. His final painting is a portrait of Jane and Greta, and the portrait becomes a character in the story, as it joins the Elbus family after Finn’s passing.
Brunt is adept at capturing the angst of awkward 14-year old June and her alienation from her talented sister, who has the lead in the school production of South Pacific and is under consideration for a professional role in Annie. The plot of the story twists and turns in pleasing and unexpected ways. You could call this a sisters, or mother – daughter story, but at the same time Brunt explores the affects of AIDS on life in the 1980s and the role of art in families. Just as June is not as talented a performer as her sister, as the story unfolds it is revealed that her mother, the accountant, although not as talented as her brother Finn, also has artistic gifts.
I picked up this book from the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers shelf at my local Barnes and Noble, without knowing anything else about the book or author, and I am glad I did. Brunt is an American, but currently lives in the UK. This book was nominated for a bunch of awards and lists in 2012. And she also got over 4,000 votes in the Goodreads Best Fiction Choice Awards, coming in right after Junot Diaz in that year-end round up.