Friday, October 12, 2012

"Tell the Wolves I'm Home" by Carol Rifka Brunt

I usually turn my nose up at contemporary fiction that deals with relationships and families, thinking it will be boring and uninteresting. But then I read a book like Tell the Wolves I'm Home and realize that a novel that's (on the surface) about a lonely teenage girl can be just as engaging as science fiction and fantasy.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home follows the relationship between fourteen-year-old June and the adult Toby. June is a loner and rather weird: she's obsessed with the middle ages (she often goes into the woods to pretend she's back in time) and is deeply (and secretly) in love with her Uncle Finn. Toby is Finn's boyfriend and the person June's family blames for giving Finn AIDS. When Finn dies, June is heartbroken, but she and Toby slowly start to find happiness through their friendship with one another.

What I really loved about the book is that it's so messy. June is in love with her uncle, even if she doesn't want to admit it, and she doesn't know how to deal with feelings she knows are wrong. And her relationship with Toby, while different, is hardly any more appropriate. They drink and smoke together; Toby in no way seems to view her as a young girl. And, at their hearts, both June and Toby are deeply wounded. June from the loss of Finn and her growing estrangement from her older sister Greta; Toby from the loss of purpose and sense of self-worth in his life. They do need each other, even though it's hardly a relationship any sane adult could condone.

At first I was a little bothered because June seemed rather young for her age, but the more I read, the more it made sense. June is naive and innocent; she understands the world simply and resists seeing beyond that. She's so defined by the way she has defined other people that she's often unable to have real relationships.

I enjoyed all the characters in the novel--and even cried a bit at the end. Tell the Wolves I'm Home keeps things quick with short chapters and lots of dialogue, so I both raced to the end and didn't want it to finish.

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