Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kinda a Creepy Title...but an unexpectedly poignant read!

Tell The Wolves I'm Home 

Image courtesy of Carol Rifka Brunt's website
Admittedly, this title threw me a bit the first time I saw it... Immediately, I was groaning to myself and imagining some urban setting with werewolves, zombies, or whatever, though when I gave it some thought, several authors who recommended it typically don't read such urban fantasies. I began investigating in earnest and learned it was not that type of book at all! Then one of our book club members suggested we read it...and here we are today! I literally read this book in one day, that is how enthralling I found it to be. Brunt's writing flowed serenely along, much like the stream in the woods behind the school. This book resonated with me on so many levels. I found similarities to Tartt's The Goldfinch in the ultimate importance of a work of art to other people, and Benjamin's Alice I Have Been in the possibly inappropriate sexual thoughts about or relationship with an older person.

As you might realize by now, if you have read many of my reviews here or on Goodreads, I typically read for characterization first--make me believe in these characters, please! :) Brunt delivers exactly that. I am quite satisfied when I complete a novel and feel as if I have made "friends" with the characters and would LOVE to know what happens to them next. However, I always realize there is never a "stopping point" where I would feel as if I know everything about them. I am amazed at the level of writing contained within this novel, considering it is her debut! Wow...I will anxiously await future publications, of which I hope there will be many. 

Brunt states in the Question/Answer section at the back of my paperback edition that she did not initially consider this to be much of a "coming-of-age" novel, but I believe it definitely is, and I'm glad she did further editing/writing to better define this theme. June is not perhaps "typical" among her adolescent peers, and yet, who really is? (I don't believe there is a "normal" when discussing human nature/behaviors!) We are each individuals and even as children, especially adolescents, each of us experiences our own pressures and challenges, though we all may believe virtually every other child has it much better/easier then we do! In effect, I felt this book fully demonstrated the "anti-bullying" concept of acceptance and empathy toward others, regardless of our impressions or preconceived notions. The reader feels June's shyness and lack of social skills to mix and mingle and make friends, though her sister, Greta, is the exact opposite--gregarious, talented, and popular amongst her peers. Being an only child perhaps limits my credibility in this area, but for me, Brunt's depiction of this sibling relationship seemed accurate and I thoroughly resonated with both June and Greta. Our other book club members with siblings agreed this relationship was portrayed accurately. 

June is literally trying to define herself. (Aren't we all? LOL) This proves to be a bit more difficult for her than it appears to be for Greta, though we later learn that Greta has her own demons to conquer. And this is, in my opinion, one of the main themes in this book, accept others with empathy and sympathy--do not judge. As we learn of Finn and Danni's history, we see how devastating and perpetual the consequences can be when relationships are damaged by hurt, judgment, and most importantly, holding grudges; being unable to forgive and accept the choices others make. I believe Finn's supposed "abandonment" was simply his only option for dealing with his sexual identity in the '60's and '70's, especially given that his father was a strict military man, however, that one decision held repercussions for the future beyond anyone's imaginings at the time... And this is true, we can never know the long-term results of the seemingly inconsequential decisions any of us makes on any given day. 

While I loved this book, reactions among our book club members was mixed. Three members felt it definitely required reading the first third or so before it began to flow for them, but once it did, two of them liked it and the third rated it "so-so." The fourth person felt it was a really good book. The good news? No one "hated" it! :) The themes contained herein made excellent fodder for discussion. There were mixed reactions to the idea that June's attraction to Finn was possibly inappropriate; most felt it was rather typical of an adolescent who was just beginning to think such thoughts to initially experiment with them toward the people with whom they have the closest relationships. I would argue that society then teaches us to stifle what may be considered inappropriate according to social norms, forcing us to focus such thoughts in "socially acceptable" ways. Fortunately, even very recently, attitudes appear to be changing overall among the US populace regarding acceptance of "non-heterosexuality" and those who identify as other than "straight." 

A consideration I found to be interesting dealt with the time of publication. If this had been released in 2012 rather than 2014, might readers' reactions perhaps be quite different, given some of the themes (homosexuality, AIDS, etc.) depicted? We all felt many more readers would likely not be as accepting just two years ago as they might be now, especially toward a "gay" couple. And the painting of Greta and June, we wished it had been left in its altered state, thereby preserving the further "edits." The teapot and the wolf, from the title and the cover meaningful!

My favorite character was Finn. I believe he was the most loving and caring character of them all--leaving notes for both June and Toby to take care of each other, how sweet! And the basement "room" created as Toby's hideout when June visited. I loved Finn's love for others. 

Have you read this one yet? I think you will not be disappointed if you do... I loved it! I believe I have another favorite author! 'Cause, I need more favorites!! 

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