My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a perfect book for a book club. It's written entirely from the point of view of a fourteen year old girl who has strained and strange relationships with members of her family. It's a coming of age story, but also a book about compassion and about dealing with the worst problems life can send.
Although Tell the Wolves I'm Home was published in 2012, it's set in 1987. It has multiple themes, but the principle story is about the affect of the aids epidemic on the friends and families of the victims. A diagnosis of HIV before the approval of AZT was a death sentence. It also meant dealing with a lack of knowledge in the general public. Most people without the disease were ignorant and scared, which meant the people who were HIV positive had to spend the last few months of their lives dealing with problems as unfair as the disease itself. The reactions of the characters in this novel are unique to their circumstances, but are also typical of what went on in the eighties.
The plot is about June Elbus, a fourteen year old girl who is very close to her dying uncle, a world renowned artist. She, along with her mother and her sister Greta, visit this uncle on Sundays while he works on a portrait of the two girls. The painting is to be his final gift to them, although the concept of “final” is carefully avoided. Later in the book June discovers secrets about her uncle's life that were kept from her due to her mother's wishes. The way June comes to understand her mother's failings is one of my favorite parts of the story.
June and her sister, Greta, were once as close as sisters can be, especially during tax seasons when their parents, both accountants, had always left them on their own. But lately Greta has been mean and June doesn't understand why. Greta has always been the talented one. Her school work has come easily to her and she's currently starring in their high school production of South Pacific. June, however, struggles to keep up in class and isn't as popular as her sister. The story of their relationship is interwoven with the story of June's relationship with her Uncle Finn.
I mentioned in the beginning of this review that Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a great novel for book clubs. I was interested to see how readers can buy a study guide for the book and also a book called 100 Provocative Statements about Tell the Wolves I'm Home which is a collection of “hand picked” reviews. It's fairly clear how much material for discussion this book contains.
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