It took about 100 pages for me to figure out the title for Carol Rifka Brunt’s debut novel, “Tell the Wolves I’m Home.” I’m not sure I am entirely right. Like a good painting, this story of grief has layers.
It is 1987, and 14 year old June Elbus is dealing with the death of her favorite uncle and godfather, the renowned painter Finn Weiss, from complications caused by AIDS. He paints one last painting of June and her older sister Greta that is instrumental in uncovering hidden truths of Finn and the people he left behind. June grapples with feelings of grief, love, stolen moments, and guilt. She learns more about relationships and the space between them.
The book captures the suspicion and fear that was indicative of the times when little was known about AIDS. Anyone who remembers Ryan White will recognize the hysteria. Younger readers will pick up the vibe of the ancient history of the 80s. Young or older, the cadence of the language and the likable character of June carry the reader on a satisfying journey that touches the heart.