June Elbus is fourteen the year her life changes forever. It’s the winter of 1987, and in just a few short weeks, the FDA will approve AZT for AIDS patients; however, it doesn’t come soon enough for her beloved uncle and godfather, Finn, a well-known but reclusive artist.
Finn means everything to June, and he's the only person in her family who seems to understand her. He takes her to Renaissance Faires and Merchant Ivory films, while her accountant parents leave dinner simmering in the crockpot, and June and her sister, Greta, become tax season orphans. Finn discusses Mozart with her and serves her tea from a magnificent Russian teapot, while Greta alternates between cruelty and avoidance, in the way only a popular big sister can. When Finn dies, June feels completely alone.
Then she gets a letter in the mail from her uncle’s boyfriend, Toby, asking if they can meet. “I think you are perhaps the only person who misses Finn as much as I do,” he writes, and while June suspects he’s right, she also can’t shake off the things her family has told her about Toby - that he’s a murderer, a criminal, that he gave her uncle AIDS on purpose. Still, she can’t resist the chance to talk to someone who knew Finn and loved him, too. The two form a secret friendship, and bit by bit, June learns about the parts of her uncle’s past, her family’s secrets, that were kept from her.
As much as Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a story about June and Toby, it’s also a story about sisters, and the way that June and Greta ignore, hurt, watch out for, and depend upon each other - sometimes all in the same chapter - is one of the best parts of the book. Also well done is the depiction of AIDS in the gay community in the 1980s, when homophobia, discrimination, and isolation exacerbated the epidemic.
Brunt has crafted an emotionally resonant, gorgeously written coming of age story that may appeal to fans of character-driven tearjerkers like The Fault in Our Stars, coming of age stories full of hard truths like Bastard Out of Carolina, or books about living with AIDS in the 1980s like Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica.