The Short Take:
Families, death, memories, art, and beauty — this debut novel brings them all together with grace and eloquence. Set in 1987, and narrated by a misfit 14-year-old girl, this touching novel explores how even in death those we love still shape our world. Rich and rewarding, it’s an exceptional first novel.
When the person you feel closest to dies, it’s hard indeed. When that person dies from an illness that no one wants to talk about or acknowledge — AIDs — it’s even harder. When you feel all alone and completely misunderstood without that person, it’s hardest of all. However, this book is not a terrible downer. It focuses on finding ways to deal with loss while continuing to treasure the person you miss. It’s about moving on without moving away. It’s lovely.
The young June makes an engaging narrator, with all the angst and self-loathing that seems to automatically come with being different and 14. What a hard age that is! Her deceased uncle reaches beyond the grave to help her, as well as the one other person who is mourning him in solitude and even greater despair — his dying partner.
The evolution of this relationship, as well as the changing relationship between June and her more popular,older sister form the dual heart of this worth-while novel.
However, I really do not get the title. It draws from the title of a portrait of the two sisters and there is a negative-space wolf head in the portrait, but it still seems odd to me.
A Little Plot:
Dying uncle Finn insists on creating a portrait of two sisters who have grown estranged as they enter their teen years. Neither of them want to pose. June because she treasures the time she spends alone with her uncle, who is also her closest friend and confident, and doesn’t want to share him. Greta just doesn’t want to.
After Finn’s death, mysterious packages begin arriving for June — treasures from her uncle. Then comes the request to befriend the stranger she first saw at Finn’s funeral. For June it is a thunderbolt: her beloved Finn also loved someone else, the man her parents claim killed him. She is torn, yet also in need of comfort herself. Making this connection could make the difference.
For more about Carol Rifka Brunt and her novel, click here.