Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Review)

12875260Title: Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher: The Dial Press
Release Date: June 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Purchase from Amazon
Pages: 360

Date Finished: May 26, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

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.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

My Review

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a sad, poignant novel about loss.  It is incredibly depressing, but don’t let that keep you from reading it.  I’m not the type of person who likes to read sad books.  I don’t like to cry, as some people do.  (I actually despise it.)  But, this book was so much more than just dealing with loss and was worth the tears.

The entire story revolves around June’s loss of her uncle, Finn, to AIDS in the 1980s, but the majority of the novel is about June’s relationship with her sister, Greta, and her uncle’s partner, Toby.  It is about her struggle to keep Finn alive in her heart while growing up and moving on, a true coming of age story.

As a child who grew up in the 80s, I remember the fear, distrust, and hate that surrounded the AIDS outbreak.  It was a confusing time and so little was known about the virus.  Rumors and untruths ran rampant through society and the people who contracted HIV bore the brunt of that fear and hatred.  I thought Tell the Wolves addressed these issues beautifully.  It was a fitting tribute to those who have fought and are still fighting that battle.

Wrap-Up

This is a beautifully sad, heartfelt story.  The beginning is a little slow, but it picks up dramatically about 40% in.  The writing is really lyrical and helps carry you through the slow spots.  The synopsis of this book does not do it justice. I recommend giving it a try.  It is a perfect choice for book clubs and generates a lot of discussion.

The Hangman’s Daughter ((2.5 Stars))

The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter, #1)Title: The Hangman’s Daughter
Author:  Oliver Potzsch
Genre:  Fiction; Historical Fiction

Publisher:  Amazon Crossing
Release Date:  December 7, 2010
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages:  448
Date Finished:  March 9, 2014
2.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter–the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch–a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

My Review

Ok, I have to be honest.  I didn’t care for this book very much.  It was one of our book club picks and it was really a let down.  I was expecting so much more.  The story dragged on and on and there were huge parts of the book which could have been omitted.  For instance, one of the characters solved the mystery and then kept losing consciousness before they could relay who the murderer was.  Unfortunately, I’m not joking.

Jacob Kuisl, the hangman, and the historical bits surrounding his family were very interesting, but there needed to be more of it to hold my interest.  All of the supporting characters were…meh.  I didn’t connect with any of them.  They were flat, and…just not that interesting.  I couldn’t even be bothered to remember their names.  (Not that it would have been easy to remember all the German names.)  The villan was totally not scary.  One of my friends compared him to a Disney villan.  Overall, I just could not get invested in the characters or the storyline.

This is the first book in a series, and it did not make me want to read any more of them.  I hope the series gets better, but I don’t think I could make myself find out.

Sorry this review is so short, but sometimes, if you can’t say anything nice…

The Kitchen House ((5 Stars))

The Kitchen HouseTitle: The Kitchen House
Author:  Kathleen Grissom
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher:  Touchstone
Release Date:  February 10, 2010
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Purchased from Amazon
Pages:  369

Date Finished:  1/4/14
5 Stars

Goodreads Description

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

My Review

The Kitchen House was one of our book club reads, and I’m sorry to say I did not pick it.  This book was beautiful.  The characters were tangible and you care about their well-being from the moment you are introduced to them.  The story line is a bit different from most slave related fiction.  Lavinia is actually an indentured servant as opposed to a slave.  She is white, but because her parents die in transit from Ireland, she becomes the property of the Captain due to money owed.  Upon arriving home with a little white girl he has no intention of keeping in the big house, the Captain gives her to Belle to look after.  The rest of the tale, tells Lavinia’s interesting story of living on a rural, southern plantation as a white slave.

As I stated before, these characters are tangible to the reader.  You want to climb into Mama’s lap and let her pat you and sing you to sleep.  You feel Belle’s love and hate for her father and brother.  You share Lavinia’s confusion about where she belongs.  Kathleen Grissom does each character justice, even the not-so-lovely ones.  All the way through the book, I kept wondering if these were real people, if Grissom was simply breathing live into people who had really existed.  Either way, they are real to you by the end.

As much as I love a great character-driven book, there is much, much more to enjoy here.  The story line carries you through Lavinia’s extremely tumultuous life, from being nothing but a slave, to being the belle of the ball, and back again.  There is a lot of conflict and it often comes from very unexpected sources.  It makes you question where “home” really lies and what makes a family a family.  There are tons of twists and turns which keep you guessing all the way through.  Not to mention, Grissom’s writing is spot on.

It is not often I find a book flawless, but this one definitely falls into that category.

Wrap-Up

I challenge you to read this book and not fall in love with at least one of the characters.  Grissom has filled these pages to the brim with life, love, hatred, and heartache.  I highly recommend The Kitchen House for book clubs because there is so much meat to chew on during and after reading.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to give this one a read!