If I’m a hundred percent honest with you, I’d tell you I don’t read much. Books were something I enjoyed in my youth until schooling and expectations turned books into these heavy things that carried your future. They were not fun and they were a means to an end, always. The joy of books seeped out of me slowly, all through high school and college and as I used them to only hone my skills in other fields after graduation.
But the truth is, books are pretty amazing. They can carry entire stories and place them in your soul like no television series, or movie, or even some life experiences can. And I was reminded when, on a whim, I decided to buy a copy of Tell the Wolves I’m Home. I even remember the moment. I was walking through Target. Unlike most stores, in Target I meander in the aisles for no reason at all. The style of the items they tend to sell just resonates with me. As I was walking around with pillows, throws, shower curtains, and decorative doo-dads swimming around in my eyes, I saw this book on a shelf.
I’m not sure what was so eye-catching about it, or why I had to buy a copy when I got home, but I did.
The general story is that June, a 14 year old girl, loves her uncle Finn, who soon passes from AIDS. She is then approached and befriended by a man her family hates for what he “did” to Finn, and their family. The story follows as everyone begins to face their own demons and become keenly aware of the demons living in the others. After I had read this book I felt like I had just finished opening a Pandora’s box for emotion. It was all so sad but so deeply uplifting at the same time.
I really connected with June, the main character of the book. The way it was written, it was like Brunt reached out and pulled some of the words from my heart and pasted it on the pages.
“You can build a whole world around the tiniest of touches.”
“I was in a place where nobody knew my heart even a little bit.”
“I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.”
“I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.”
“I thought how that was wrong and terrible and beautiful all at the same time.”
“I thought of trying to catch her eye, so she’d know I understood what she’d done, but I decided not to. Everyone needs to think they have secrets.”
“The kinds of things I want don’t cost money.”
I highly recommend this book. I don’t think I have felt this way about a novel since I read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
This is one of those books that leaves you wondering whether you just read an adventure, a romance, a tragedy or a memoir. The protagonist experiences the extremes of what go into human relationships both situationally and emotionally. Hate, love, friendship, grief, and the great internal struggles endured really make this book hard to put down.
* * * S P O I L E R S * * *
The story revovles around young Jacob, a student of veterinary medicine at Cornell in his final weeks of school. Right before his final exams he receives news of both his parents’ demise in a car accident. Jacob later discovers that his father, a veterinarian, has been working for things like eggs and butter instead of money as a result of The Great Depression. He also discovers his parents took out a mortgage on their house to pay for his Cornell education. With their death, the bank possesses everything and Jacob is left with no family, home, or future. Unable to complete the final exams due to emotional trauma, he is also left without a degree. He runs away and winds up hitching a ride with a circus train where he is almost thrown out but then kept on as their ‘Cornell Educated Veterinarian”.
Through this venue he meets several people that will change his life, including Marlena, the beautiful horse tamer, who is married to August, who I can only describe as the violent and charming bipolar animal director. He also meets Walter, his unwilling bunkmate dwarf and Camel, the drunk who gets him onto the show to begin with. Navigating the climate of depression and prohibition, Jacob learns more about himself as he falls in love, becomes a man, and has to fight to save everything that’s important to him.
* * * E N D S P O I L E R S * * *
I appreciated the way the story was told, from the point of view of old Jacob in a nursing home. It adds a level of understanding we cannot achieve if the story was just told from the time period in which it happened.
The book starts out kind of slow but picks up steam as the history lesson subsides and the adventure starts. The language is simple and it’s an easy read. Now that they’re making it into a movie I can’t wait to see it! There was so much emotion in the book I think they’ll have a hard time translating it to the screen but I’m never a person who compares the book and the movie so I’ll probably enjoy it anyway since the premise isn’t overused in Hollywood.
It’s a thrilling book and it’s so popular you can probably pick it up off a thrift store bookshelf by now for a dollar or something. I say it’s worth a read.