Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

When I first learned about this book through my subscription to Random Reads I thought it might be about were wolves; how I got that impression bewilders me.  Published 2013 in paperback, 355 pages with a reading guide for book club discussions, it's a good debut novel and the second book I have read in the past month about adolescent sisters.  I was intrigued by the cover and  drawn into the story as  told in retrospect by June, aka "Crocodile" the 15 year old.  It is set in 1986 in New York City amidst the AIDS crisis.  The very first sentence draws the reader, "My sister, Greta and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying.  This was after I understood that I wasn't going to grow up and move into his apartment and live there with him for the rest of my life.  After I stopped believing that the AIDS thing was all some kind of big mistake..."   She adores Uncle Finn, her mother's only brother.  But not until his death does she learn so much more about him, his life, his fame and his deep relationship to Toby, his partner.  The cover illustrates the Russian teapot that  Finn wills to June instructing  that she serve  tea from it to only "the best people."  Toby is persona non grata to her family but through Finn's legacy, June develops a secret friendship with him and learns how deeply he and Finn cared for each other, while he too is terminal with AIDs.   

June is an independent but emotional teenager,  solitary through her adolescent angst and retreats into the woods near her school to just be...I enjoyed time alone in the Pennsylvania woods where I grew up so I immediately related to her.  Pg. 11..."Going into the woods by yourself is the best way to pretend  you're in another time.  It's a thing you can only do alone.  If there's somebody else with you, it's too easy to remember where you really are. ... The first thing I do when I go to the woods is hang my backpack on a tree branch.  Then I walk.  To make it work, you have to walk until you can't hear any cars at all, and that's what I do.......In the book "A Wrinkle in Time" it says that time is like a big old rumpled blanket....""

The girl's parents are both successful accountants so that in  tax season they become "tax orphans" as Mom and Dad work long hours and this allows their independence to take over.    June is  more introverted while her sister Greta is the opposite, outgoing, a joiner in all school activities, a participant and into more things than the parents imagine including  alcohol with her partying friends.  June observes and at times saves Greta from herself.  June secretly journeys to the city to spend time with Toby without her parents knowing.  Meantime the portrait  Finn painted of the girls is mentioned in the newspaper as missing and worh  hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Toby plays  the key role at the end rescuing Greta when June is confined to quarters after her desecration of the sister's portrait is discovered. Some sadness and tears close the novel.   

I  will suggest this book to our book club because it has a dearth of emotion and good reading. It is a 4****;  I am glad to have read it but would not have chosen it randomly.