He pushed himself up from the old blue chair he always painted in, wincing as he held on to it for a second, steadying himself. He took a step away and I could see that, other than the green tie at his waist, the only color Finn had was in the little splotches of paint all over his white smock. The colors of me and Greta. I felt like grabbing the paintbrush right out of his hand so I could color him in, paint him back to his old self.
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt Genre: Fiction Pages: 355
June Elbus is quiet, extremely shy and thinks that her older sister Greta hates her. The only person who really understands her is her Uncle Finn and he has AIDS. I think the brilliance of Brunt’s writing in this novel is that she keeps you guessing. June has so many questions about her uncle and his relationship with his ‘special friend’ Toby, her questions draw you into the story. Jealousy is a major theme in this book. June’s mother is jealous of her daughter’s ability to grieve for her uncle while she is not able to. Greta and Toby are both jealous of June’s relationship with Finn. June is jealous of her sister who seems to have everything figured out, and of Toby who seems to have a much deeper and closer relationship with her uncle than she does. It’s basically one big web of jealousy and misunderstanding that is unraveled throughout the book.
‘June, nobody knew anything about AIDS. Do you understand? There wasn’t even a word for it when Finn and I met.’ ‘Then why does my whole family think you gave it to him? Why would they say that?’ Toby tipped his head forward and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath before opening them. ‘Because that’s what we decided to tell them.’
In 1987, AIDS was still widely misunderstood. June’s family is unwilling to talk about Finn’s disease or his relationship with Toby, and I think this does June a great disservice. Danni (June’s mother) underestimates her daughter and what she can handle, mentally and emotionally. June is longing for closure after her uncle’s death but it seems that her family simply wants to move on and forget. June spends a great deal of the novel searching for answers and feeling like she has no one to turn to. But once she starts to open up to Toby she realizes that things are not always what they seem.
Don’t you know? That’s the secret. If you always make sure you’re exactly who you want to be, if you always make sure you only know the very best people, then you won’t care if you die tomorrow.
I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Reading it really did feel like untangling a web of secrets and misunderstandings and by the end of the book the loose ends were tied up and the damaged relationships were repaired. I would definitely recommend this book but make sure you have a box of tissues ready!
Tell the wolves i’m home. Digital image. Amazon. 13 Mar 2017. www.amazon.com