“My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying.” So begins this intense but redemptive novel. Uncle Finn was fourteen-year-old June Elbus’s first love. An artist, he seemed to understand her the way no one else did. Shy, with no friends, June liked to go into the woods behind her house and pretend to be “in another time.” She was entranced with the Middle Ages, and remembered her many trips to the Cloisters with her Uncle Finn as well as learning Mozart’s Requiem from him. “Crocodile was a name Finn invented for me because he said I was like something from another time that lurked around, watching and waiting, before I made my mind up about things. I loved when he called me that.”[p.7]
As Finn is dying from AIDS in 1987, June’s mother would drive June and her older sister Greta’s portrait. When he dies, a strange man comes to the funeral, but he is turned away. Days later he manages to contact June, and cautiously, she develops a friendship with the man who was Finn’s lover.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home is layered with many plots. There’s the story of Greta’s jealousy over June’s special love for Finn and her own acting out, her extreme cruelty to June, some of which seemed over the top or melodramatic at times. There’s the story of their mother’s refusal to acknowledge Finn’s lover, Toby, even though she had known all along that Finn was gay. Her story is indeed sad, because she was so filled with spite over what she took as Finn’s abandonment of her. I wasn’t thrilled with the cover; though many elements of the novel are captured in it, I think it’s a bit off putting and sensational.