In the mid-1980s, AIDS was a new disease, frightening in its deadliness and regarded by many as shameful. That is the milieu in which Carol Rifka Blunt has set Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Fourteen-year-old June's beloved uncle Finn, a well-known artist is dying of AIDS, but not until he dies does June learn he had a lover (a "special friend") named Toby, whom the rest of her family regards as Finn's murderer. As Toby reaches out to June, she finds comfort in his friendship. Her accountant parents are wrapped up in tax season, her sister Greta (once her best friend) now seems to hate her, and she has no friends at school, perhaps not surprising since she likes to go into the woods behind the school and pretend to be a medieval heroine. Thus, although she first fights against the friendship, Toby fills a hole in her life. Meanwhile, Greta is falling apart, and their parents are oblivious. The family seems headed for a crisis--and indeed they arrive there in time for a series of blow-ups at the end of the book. Thwarted dreams, jealousy, loneliness, and the convenience of blaming for one's own questionable decisions are among the themes Blunt explores via the Elbus family's story.
After reading a review of Tell the Wolves when it was first published, I tried to read it but just couldn't get past the first few pages. Then Novel Conversations chose it, and I again had difficulty getting going. While the situation and characters should be interesting, the plot moves very slowly and the writing is generally bland, dominated by simple sentences (subject-verb-object) and too many sentences beginning with indefinite pronouns. Given the subject matter, this book could have put the reader through an emotional wringer, but, sadly, I found myself unmoved.
Sometimes it feels good to take the long way home.