This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.
Sometimes a book resonates for you even though it has nothing to do with your own experiences. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt was that book for me. June’s narrative made me feel young and confused, like life was happening around me and I couldn’t quite make sense of it. But Toby — Toby was what made the book for me. He was sympathetic, mysterious, loving, giving, and ultimately tragic.
Set in the 1980s during the height of the AIDS epidemic, we see how one death impacts a family. But mostly this is a book about relationships: June and Toby’s friendship, Finn and June’s connection, and June and Greta’s sisterly bond. Weaving amongst all three of these relationships are family secrets and the need to learn to forgive others and yourself.
The events in the novel are seen through June’s innocent eyes. As we get to know Toby — as a friend, a talented flea circus performer, a lover mourning his partner’s death, and someone who secrets himself away in a beautifully decorated basement hideaway to keep the family peace — we experience both June’s feelings of betrayal of what she thought was her unique bond with Finn and her growing sense of loss that she only got to know Toby at the end. The sense of doom builds to a devastating emotional punch to the gut, and I finished the book with tears running down my face.
An unforgettable book makes you feel something; it makes you think long after you’ve read the last word, and I experienced both when reading this book.
— Kefira Philippe