1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. (goodreads)
When her Uncle Finn dies, shy and reclusive June feels she's lost the only person in the world who truly understands her. Whilst she is still reeling from his loss she meets Toby, a stranger who claims to be a 'special friend' of Finn's but according to her mother was also his killer. At first she is repulsed, but against the odds an unlikely and awkward friendship blossoms between the two. As they trade memories, June is forced to confront how little she really knew about her Uncle and his life, as well as her true feelings towards him.
I think anyone who was ever labelled as a quiet child in their younger years will identify with June on some level. She is a dreamy girl who prefers fantasizing about the middle ages to living in the real world. She is at her happiest when she escapes deep into the woods, far enough from civilisation that she can pretend it doesn't exist and she really has gone back in time. She has no real friends bar her Uncle, and her sister Greta is apparently dedicated to tormenting her. At just 14 years old, June already seems to be on the tipping point of completely withdrawing into herself, and my heart was aching for her. On the other hand I admired her sense of wonder and imagination and so much. For this reason I loved the introduction of dungeons & dragons fan Ben. He doesn't have a large role but, by declaring her fascination with all things old timey cool rather than weird, he shows that she doesn't have to enjoy it entirely in isolation.
Greta is also a very interesting character. At first she seems to be just a cardboard cut-out "mean older sister", but her unpleasantness towards June is not at simple as all that. With each turn of the page cracks begin to appear in her seemingly perfect life, and we see that she may not be entirely to blame for the deterioration of the close friendship they had when young. I felt a lot of sympathy for her by the end. Carol Rifka Brunt also explores another sibling relationship: that of Finn and June's mother, Danni. Whilst it goes some way to explaining Danni's pushy and controlling nature, it wasn't quite enough to make me like her.
This is not a happy book, but it is not thoroughly depressing either. It speaks of grief, loneliness and the unspeakable unfairness of life, but there is also hope; the suggestion that maybe we don't have to be so alone, after all. It's been a month or two since I read Tell the Wolves I'm Home yet I still find my mind wandering to certain characters and events within it. The raw, messy realness of it makes this a tale which won't be easily forgotten.