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

Reviewed by Jolanda de Faber

Tell the Wolves I’m Home takes us back to the 1980s, a time when homosexuality was still less openly talked about than today and children grew up believing that almost any disease could be cured – until there was AIDS.

The main character and narrator is June, a fourteen year-old girl. She grows up with her older sister Greta and their parents. Since the parents often make long days at the office, the girls are left to themselves most of the time during weekdays. As a result, the parents aren’t really aware of the changing lives of their teenage daughters.

On weekends, the two sisters and their mother regularly go to visit their uncle Finn. He is painting a portrait of the girls because he knows he is dying. June is uncle Finn’s special niece, they have strong feelings for each other. Finn’s illness and imminent death aren’t openly talked about, but the depressing truth of it is clearly present.

The portrait serves as a point of reference throughout the story. The theme of the novel is relationships – family relationships, love relationships, friendships – and how complicated they can sometimes get when, despite their good intentions, people hide things from each other.

Carol Rifka Brunt beautifully describes all that June goes through, all the feelings and emotions. The loneliness she feels after her uncle has died. Her confused feelings towards her sister who seems to be drifting away from her, towards her uncle – what exactly did she feel for him? And then the complicated relationship that evolves between her and Toby, someone else who misses Finn.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is Carol Rifka Brunt’s first novel and I’m totally looking forward to reading more from her.

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