My best friend and I have a very unique holiday gift-giving tradition that has broadened my horizons in the reading world. Every December, one of the gifts that we give to each other is a copy of our favorite book from the entire year. Not only is this a great way to learn about what each person considers an amazing book, but it encourages you to reflect on all that you have read. Figuring out what that person has already read is quite a tedious process (this is where GoodReads saves the day!), however, once you find the perfect book recommendation it is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve been able to read books that I may not have otherwise considered, and I’ve become interested in many more genres as a result. This year was no exception. I decided to give her a copy of This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. This book had such a beautifully crafted plot, and had a very unique writing voice. She gave me a copy of Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, which was one that I had not yet heard of. The cover art is stunning, and I was immediately intrigued.
I don’t often have the time to sit down and read a book for hours and hours. However, given that it is winter break, I found myself unable to look away from Tell The Wolves I’m Home. This novel is set in 1987 onward, and follows the Elbus family through their complicated lives. The main narrator, June Elbus, is fourteen years old. June’s best friend (and only friend) is her uncle, Finn Weiss. June’s sister Greta is sixteen, but already a senior in high school. Greta is actively involved in the high school’s theater program, and lives a life full of parties and performances. June’s parents are both accountants, and they work late hours during the tax season. June calls herself a tax season orphan due to the time she spends alone.
Finn happens to be a renowned painter, and decides to paint a portrait of the two sisters as his final goodbye. We learn that Finn has been diagnosed with AIDS, and throughout the novel he faces public and private ridicule. The only person who assigns no judgement is June, and her world becomes unrecognizable upon her uncle’s eventual death. At Finn’s funeral June meets Toby, the man who the rest of the family refuses to associate with. June is able to see past this prejudice, and take control of her grief by talking with the man who misses her uncle as much as she does.
What truly resonated with me is the complex development of the novel’s characters. They are presented with superficial personas at the beginning of the novel, but they transform into intricate people with complicated identities. You feel as though you are a fly on the wall of the Elbus family’s transformation: secrets are revealed and true feelings are announced in a heartbreaking and uplifting alteration.
I was also taken aback by the authenticity of this novel. Each character’s flaws and imperfections announce themselves continuously, but these characteristics do not stunt growth and change. It is a raw story with realistic interactions, and not all days end in resolution. The characters clash as they walk on their own paths of grief, but they always find each other in the end.
I would not have grabbed this book off the shelf initially, but I am grateful that I took the time to read it and contemplate its complex message. This is a book that embraces reality, and is a refreshing read with a good balance of turmoil and hope. I highly recommend this book, and I would love to know your thoughts if you read it!
Now that it is the new year (and my first full year of blogging), my goal is to read and review one book per month.
If you have any suggestions for what I should read and review next, leave me a comment below! 🙂
You can find the book through these sellers:
Amazon (paperback, kindle, and library binding copies available)
Barnes & Noble (paperback, nook, hardcover, and audiobook available)
I would also encourage you to look for a copy at your local book shops and support small businesses! 🙂
©The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.