Archive for the ‘NY’ Category

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is ostensibly about AIDS but equally TellTheWolvesImHomeimportantly it’s about siblings, how they feel about each other, what they do to each other, their hopes and dreams and needs. Fourteen year old June Elbus’ uncle Finn (her mother’s brother) is dying of AIDS. An artist, he embarks upon a portrait of June and her older sister Greta as a remembrance of him but also to ensure their togetherness. June is a naïve 14 year old and didn’t know anything about Finn’s boyfriend Toby until he shows up at the funeral. No one in the Elbus family will even acknowledge him.

June feels that she, more than anyone else, misses Finn. But when Toby contacts her and they meet secretly, it becomes apparent that Toby is hurting as much. Also, many of the things she attributed to Finn were really done by Toby. When June realizes that Toby has AIDS and is critically ill, she tries to fulfill Finn’s wish that she befriend and take care of Toby who has no one.  But it’s tough while her family believes that Toby was the person who got Finn sick in the first place.

While this back story which takes place in the mid 1980s when AIDS began to make its appearance, realistically portrays people’s ignorance of the disease, the real drama, the meat, in my mind is how Greta feels towards June as June gravitates towards Finn away from her. It also is about how Danni, June’s mother, feels when Finn as a young man goes off to see the world, leaving Danni at home.

I read somewhere that you shouldn’t use poignant in a review, but Tell the Wolves I’m Home is poignant at times. It is a wonderful tribute to siblings. It is a young girl’s desire to do the right thing amid the emotions of loss, the mixed signals of parents and an inner voice that really doesn’t know what’s right.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is not my normal genre. A Facebook author friend recommended it and I’m glad. It will bring many of us back to a place we haven’t been in a very long time. It will also show you how far we’ve come…which is a good thing.

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How many authors do you know who can follow the rain from downtown New York to uptown on a dark, stormy night and, Fatherhoodwith each passing street, describe the sinister deeds being done? Or, have a newspaper man see a lone, forgotten, beaten boxer on the back seat of an uptown bus and learn the truth about his downward spiral? Or, on his death bed, have an aged father tell his son the truth about their estrangement?

Thomas H. Cook is known for his mysteries, my favorite (and the one that started my obsession with his writing) being The Chatham School Affair. What a marvelous book! And, every year when in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod I ask the local booksellers for a recommended local author. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve run through anyone of interest. (I’m not into cozy mysteries or sea stories, somewhat limiting my interest in the wonderful local authors who live on the Cape.) So, when I saw Fatherhood and Other Stories by Mr. Cook at Where the Sidewalk Ends, how could I pass it up? (By the way, Where the Sidewalk Ends is a must stop for any book lover on the Cape.)

There are few authors who are so able to create an atmosphere and put you right in the center. I was on that bus when Jack Burke sat down next to Irish Vinnie Teague, the Shameful Shamrock, known in the sports world for his blatant throwing of a fight. A contender before the fight; a nothing after it. I was in the thunderstorm, following it uptown, seeing the dastardly deeds being done, the rain blurring the visions.

The 11 stories in this volume run the gamut from suicide to father/son relations, to beating the odds to boxing to loneliness. I guess the best way to summarize the tone of Fatherhood and Other Stories comes from the story of Veronica, working in the Mysterious Bookstore on Christmas Eve. In the solitude of the store at that late hour, she reads and ponders the sentence “We live in the echo of our pain.” In the stories in Fatherhood we live in the echo of our pain. I’m guessing that once you taste Thomas H. Cook’s writing, you’ll become obsessed as well.

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