Excerpted from Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Copyright © 2012 by Carol Rifka Brunt. Excerpted by permission of Dial Press Trade Paperback, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home was named one of the Wall Street Journal's Top 10 Novels of 2012, one of Oprah.com's Best Books of 2012, one of Kirkus Reviews' top 100 books of the year, and one of Booklist's Top 10 First Novels of 2012 as well as a 2012 O Magazine Favorite Read. It is also a Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist for Fiction and a Shelf Awareness Reviewer's Choice pick for 2012.
“A dazzling debut novel.” – O Magazine
“Tremendously moving…Brunt strikes a difficult balance, imbuing June with the disarming candor of a child and the melancholy wisdom of a heart-scarred adult."—The Wall Street Journal
“In this lovely debut novel set in the 1980s, Carol Rifka Brunt takes us under the skin and inside the tumultuous heart of June Elbus…Distracted parents, tussling adolescents, the awful ghost-world of the AIDS-afflicted before AZT—all of it springs to life in Brunt’s touching and ultimately hopeful book.”--People
“[A] transcendent debut… Peopled by characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned, Brunt’s novel is a beautifully bittersweet mix of heartbreak and hope.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Carol Rifka Brunt’s astonishing first novel is so good, there’s no need to grade on a curve: Tell the Wolves I'm Home is not only one of the best debuts of 2012, it’s one of the best books of the year, plain and simple. In a literary landscape overflowing with coming-of-age stories, Tell the Wolves I'm Home rises above the rest. The narrative is as tender and raw as an exposed nerve, pulsing with the sharpest agonies and ecstasies of the human condition.”—Bookpage
“A poignant debut…Brunt's first novel elegantly pictures the New York art world of the 1980s, suburban Westchester and the isolation of AIDS.”--Kirkus
“In [Tell the Wolves I’m Home], 15-year-old June must come to terms with the death of her beloved uncle Finn, an artist, from AIDS in 1980s New York. …What begins as a wary relationship between former rivals for Finn’s affection blossoms touchingly.”-PW
“[This] gut-wrenching portrayal of a 13-year-old coping with her beloved Uncle Finn’s death from AIDS more than delivers.”—Daily Candy
“[A] striking first outing…Brunt weaves a terrific coming-of-age story, painting a vibrant picture of June’s dreams and insecurities as she teeters on the border between childhood and maturity.”—The Onion A.V. Club
“An uplifting debut novel about loss, love, and unlikely friendships in the midst of the 1980s AIDS epidemic …a literary pleasure read.”—BookBrowse
“[A] beautiful novel of love and loss… accessible, sensitively told, and heartbreaking.”--School Library Journal Blogs (Starred Review)
“If summer reading means being wholly transported to another era, I recommend Carol Rifka Brunt's brilliant and thoughtful debut novel Tell the Wolves I'm Home.”-- David Gutowski, of Largehearted Boy, on The Atlantic Wire
“With this debut novel that flawlessly encapsulates the fragile years during the mid-'80s when the specter of AIDS began to haunt society at large, Carol Rifka Brunt establishes herself as an emerging author to watch…TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME will undoubtedly be this summer's literary sleeper hit.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Brunt's debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters”—Library Journal
“A fresh yet nostalgic debut novel about a 1980s teen who loses a beloved uncle to AIDS but finds herself by befriending his grieving boyfriend. Filled with lost opportunities and second chances, Tell the Wolves I'm Home delivers wisdom, innocence and originality with surprising sweetness. Its cast of waifs and strays will steal your heart as they show each other the way to redemption.” –Shelf Awareness
“A gorgeously evocative novel about love, loss, and the ragged mysteries of the human heart, all filtered through the achingly real voice of a remarkable young heroine. How can you not fall in love with a book that shows you how hope can make a difference?”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a charming, sure-handed, and deeply sympathetic debut. Brunt writes about family, adolescence, and the human heart with great candor, insight, and pathos.”—Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of West of Here
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tale as charming and magnetic as the missing character at its heart. It’s a love story of the most unusual kind—several love stories, really—vivid and madly relatable, heartening as well as heartbreaking. Brunt is a captivating storyteller and a wonderful new voice.”—Rebecca Makkai, author of The Borrower
“Not since To Kill A Mockingbird have I read a piece of fiction that so beautifully captures the point of view of a young person, especially one so inspiringly unable to accept the prejudices of others….at turns getting away- with-it exhilarating and pass-the-tissues heartbreaking — but also a testament to the power of secrets kept and revealed.”—Metrosource
1. Toby initiates a relationship with June that necessarily involves secrets kept from her parents. Can this ever be right? Is it ever okay for an adult to have a secret relationship with a child, even if it’s formed out of the best of intentions?
2. Every relationship in the book is tinged with jealousy and/or envy. How is this played out in each of the relationships? Can jealousy ever be a positive thing? Does loving someone too much always lead to jealousy?
3. How do you feel about Danni, June’s mother? How much is she to blame for the events in the book?
4. What did you make of June’s special feelings for Finn? Have you ever felt the wrong kind of love for someone in your own life?
5. “The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible” (page 233). How does this speak to the events in Tell the Wolves I’m Home? Can terrible things like AIDS result in good?
6. “You get into habits. Ways of being with certain people” (page 206). Toby says this to June when they’re talking about her relationship with Greta. Many sisters (and brothers) have fractious relationships as teenagers, then grow up to be friends. Do you think that will be the case with Greta and June? Have you had an experience like this with your own sibling(s)?
7. If you remember the late eighties, do you remember anything about your perception of AIDS and the fear surrounding the disease?
8. How has society’s reaction to homosexuality changed over the last twenty-five years? How would this story have been different if it took place in 2012?
9. Greta is older, savvier, and knows more than June, but June sometimes seems wiser than her sister. How is this so? Does knowledge equal wisdom?
10. Do you think June will ever show Greta the secret basement room and the stash of Finn’s paintings, or will she always keep this to herself?
11. Do you blame June for what happens to Toby toward the end of the book? Do you think June will ever forgive herself for what happened that night?
12. Do you think the portrait was more beautiful before or after it was restored to its original state? Can a work of art be improved by external additions, or is the artist’s vision and intention the most important aspects of art?
13. June would like to escape to the Middle Ages. All her favorite places are escapist in nature. Would June actually be happy if her wish of time travel were granted? How does that wish change over the course of the story? Is escapism ever valuable? How do you escape?
14. Of all the themes in the novel (love, loss, regret, family relationships, etc.), which one do you think is the most important and why?