My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Remember me to one who lived there
He* once was a true love of mine.
What makes someone a true love? Can it be your uncle who paints your heart and kisses you chastely on the cheek? Or could it be the supposed murderer of the uncle who bonds with you in grief? If so, then these lines from ‘Scarborough Faire’ resonate perfectly with June, the MC.
If only I could rate the ending, this book would have been a five-fucking-starred read. But there are the 300 pages prior to that which have to be taken into account. And so four stars it is.
These are 355 pages of incredible writing and story-telling that reverberates within you. It’s difficult for me to believe that this was debut novel. It manages the perfect balance of loss and opportunities, reality and emotion. It’s filled to the brim with little snippets like this:
Maybe all I wanted was for Toby to hear the wolves that lived in the dark forest of my heart.
It’s about June, a girl who finds solace in things passed and shies from the present. She flounces through the woods in Renaissance boots and Gunne Sax dress, singing along to Mozart’s Requiem. She’s the daughter of two accountants, the sister of a prodigy and the niece of an art maestro. But she lives a very lonely life; the only person around her is her uncle, Finn, who is now dead and she’s left lonely and desolate. Along comes Toby, the man who gave Finn AIDS and who himself Is dying. And here, in a few short months, is forged a love and friendship so deep and heart-breaking as to challenge the one it was born from.
Toby was shining through me so strongly then that for a moment I was almost completely invisible.
Tell the Wolves I m Home is not only an account of how one girl dealt with the demise of a loved one, or even of moving past your pain with new relationships; it’s the chronicle of a girl who learns to grow despite being crushed again and again and again. It’s an astounding novel but like I said before it’s mostly what happened at the end that found a place in my heart; the rest of the book, whilst beautifully written and being emotionally astounding, had me yawning quite a few times. I suppose I’m just not the right kind of reader for this book. But honestly it’s towards the end when the characters and the ties binding them came to standstill that I was completely and utterly drawn in.
My favorite bond was between the two sisters, June and the older one, Greta. They used to be best friends when they were little but time and people drew them apart. June had Finn and Greta eventually found others, and they both grew up to be averse to each other. These two girls are continually pushed closer and pulled apart like a rubber-band. It’s wondrous and it’s hopeful and it’s saddening; they could always come back to each other even after so much- that’s love for you.
And how she grew to find solace in Toby and he in her, it was another aspect of the novel that I loved from the beginning. It was a small, sweet thing. It started with a fake delivery and nurtured into something so big that he could risk life and freedom to do something for her and she’d sneak out in the middle of the night and travel a long ways to bring him clothes.
But like Masuji Ibuse said, “Like flowers in a storm, life is full of goodbyes.”
Then there was her mother who I couldn’t find a fuck to give about but gradually grew on me, like those small cameillas that take such a long time to bloom. After acquainting us with her bare heart, Carol Rifka Brunt also brings us closer to understanding her.
Her tears tell the story of what she knows. That the past, present, and future are just one thing. That there’s nowhere to go from here. Home is home is home.
Tell the Wolves I m Home is a powerful and poignant and memorable novel that should probably not have been read by me, since I couldn’t appreciate it initially, but I’m glad I did and I’m glad there’s no reading police to monitor me.
*’She’ changed to ‘he’ for contextual purposes.