Review: Tell the wolves I’m home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 12875258Two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. 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. 

As the events unravel, the reader begins to see that June’s love for her uncle has grown into an unhealthy obsession. Not in a maniacal sort of way, but still not quite right. Even her sister Greta used to tease June that she was in love with her gay uncle and by going through the first half of the book, it’s hard not to question whether in fact it was true. Sure thing, June grieves about the loss of her closest friend and confidant, but her loss becomes a sort of compulsion.

She gets jealous – four-year-old kind of jealous – of a life that Finn has led without her. The character is slow to realize that Finn was gay. As it turns out, Finn’s sister (June’s mother) put her brother before a choice – he could keep in touch with the girls only without the involvement of his boyfriend.   June questions why would Finn keep his boyfriend secret, and while the homophobic attitudes of the family the answer is quite obvious. At one point June even gloats that Finn did not take his boyfriend Toby to the Cloisters Museum, where Finn and June used to go on their Sundays together.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home touches on many topics, perhaps too many to make it likable. It’s slow, at some points quite painfully so. June’s journey of self-discovery drags on and on, and the things that happen to her and the other characters (unfairness of life, judgments, loneliness etc etc) are quite tragic and yet Tell the Wolves I’m Home is no first-class drama, it’s a “meh” kind of book that did not leave either a positive or negative impression. It’s not a book that I would recommend, re-read or go see in cinemas if it gets an adaptation.

 

 

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Review: Life and Other Near-death Experiences by Camille Pagan

Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her. With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah.

I found Libby funny, brave and, at times, absolutely exasperating – maybe these are the reasons why I liked Life and Other Near-death Experiences so much. Camille Pagan made me feel for Libby, get angry with her and for her stubborn insistence that cancer diagnosis is a certain death-sentence.

Libby Miller has 6 months to live, but as it turns out the doctor’s devastating blow is the impulse for her to start living her life fully. She throws out her husband, with whom she’s been together for 18 years and who happens to be gay, quits a job, sells the apartment and flies off to Puerto Rico to see the island where her parents went on their honeymoon. In Puerto Rico she realizes that instead of accepting inevitable death, she could choose to fight.

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