Book Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

3 May

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan (Macmillan)

Pub date: June 2012

Source: Publisher via

Synopsis (From GoodReads)

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.


14-year-old June Elbus is a strange young girl – she loves medieval times, plays dress up and spends a lot of time alone, in the woods, dreaming. Her sister Greta who was once her best friend has grown up and no longer wants to have anything to do with June and her childish games. The only person who understands June is her Uncle Finn. But he is now dying of AIDS, a disease that no one will even talk about. Finn indulges June’s flights of fancy and opens her world to music, art and life.

When he dies, June starts to realise that she was not the center of his world and there is a whole lot about Finn’s life that he kept from her. When she is approached by her uncle’s special friend Toby (the man that her family blames for Finn’s death) June starts to see that she is not the only one who misses him.

There is a point in the lives of sisters when they could become best friends or just drift apart without being able to find out what really happened between them. Finn dies at this point in the life of June and Greta. Before he dies, he insists on painting a special portrait of the sisters, which initially seems like a way for him to spend the time he has left with them. But it becomes the thing that drives them apart and also what helps them find their way back to each other.

The story deals with some difficult issues: AIDS in the eighties was unknown and June’s mother can’t even bear to talk about this. It also deals with forbidden love – the one between the two men and also June’s love for her uncle.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a gently told beautiful story of growing up and learning what love really means. Seeing June and her entire family grow, change, forgive and heal is an intensely satisfying journey. June is the kind of protagonist who is easy to love  – even in her innocence there is so much wisdom that it makes you stop and think about life, love, family, friendship and shed a tear or two for all things sad and everything beautiful.


Highly recommended. A literary debut to look out for.

Rating: 5*

Many thanks to Macmillan and Lovereading for the review copy.

I received this book as a reviewer for Read more exclusive pre-publication reviews on the site.

*See my Rating policy

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt”

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting May 18, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    Oh, this one looks wonderful, and it sounds like the issue of AIDS is subtly and respectfully treated. Thanks for the review, Puj!

    • stargazerpuj May 18, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      I really loved this one. It’s such beautiful writing.

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