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Book Review by Anne Shirako

Fourteen year old June depends on the love and attention of her uncle Finn to sustain her through her empty days with overtaxed accountant parents, with Greta, her “mean girl” older sister, and with a friendless school life. After Finn dies of AIDS, June loses her mooring, until she begins a clandestine friendship with Toby, Finn’s grieving partner.

It’s the 1980s when gay was a family scandal and AIDS was a death sentence. June’s mother doesn’t deny that Finn’s is gay—she known since they were both teens—but she’s still angry that he ran away+ to a more exciting life and left her behind. “You can’t have everything” is an overarching theme of the novel: it explains their mother’s insistence that Finn hide his lover from June and Greta and Greta’s jealousy when she threatens to rat out June’s meetings with Toby.

Should a grown man have a secret friendship with a young teen? In real life, of course, it’s dicey; but in this novel, it works. These two lost souls learn to trust each other, shyly share the memories of their beloved, and slowly begin the so very necessary healing of this broken family. It’s quite beautiful, actually.

This is a tender account of a family in quiet crisis. Blame and jealousy are rife. The wishes of a dying man bring together two people who probably shouldn’t be together, and yet, they bring healing to each other and to the family. It’s a gift to everyone. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a wonderful read—not quite a cozy, and although it delves deeply into difficult family relationships, it does so without the high drama and moral questioning of a Jody Picoult novel. It’s a “moving story of love, grief, and renewal.”

My thumbs are UP.

For more book recommendations, visit Ukiah Library’s Pinterest boards or Mendocino County Library’s Goodreads pages.

(Anne Shirako is the Reference Librarian at the Ukiah Branch of the Mendocino County Library.)

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