A portrait of finding those you have loved and lost in the hearts of others.
14-year-old June Elbus thought the sun and moon rose and sat around her Uncle Finn. He was her everything, her confidant and the one who really understood her. He was an artist, known for his may with a canvas and he even created an incredible painting of June and her sister Greta. In the early 80’s it was hard for people to talk about what made Finn sick, but June’s mom (Finn’s sister), sat June down and explained that Finn had AIDS.
Suddenly June’s world is turned upside down. She now has to fear what happens in Finn leans in to hug her, of offers her a drink of his beverage. And then, Finn dies.
At the funeral June sees a very sad-looking man and learns another shock. This man, Toby, has been Finn’s long time partner of 9 years. June’s mom will have nothing to do with him saying that he is the one who gave Finn AIDS. Yet slowly as time goes on June meets with Toby and starts to learn about a side of Finn she never knew. Hiding the fact she is meeting Toby from her family who would not approve and her always accusing eye of her troubled older sister Greta, June expands her world and understanding of how fragile life can be.
There are so many layers to this story that it is hard to put into a review. Obviously the main story is of Finn and June and AIDS. But there is also the painting of June and Greta that follows right along throughout the book in a powerful way – almost a metaphor of how life is never how we see it at one glance and how we are always changing and growing in ways that are seen and unseen. And there is also Greta, battling her own demons as almost this under layer of turmoil that everyone is caught up in.
Powerful? yes. There were a couple of things in the book that I felt were unnecessary, and I am just going to say it. Toby drinking and smoking with June probably had some purpose to the story.. something about living on the edge or throwing caution to the wind – but it bothered me because 1) June is 14 and 2) Toby is an adult (30’s I believe) and should know better. It just felt unnecessary.
Ok that said – the book is a brilliant look into the scare of the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s and the reaction of the families it touched. It takes a young girl to see through the disease to the people, and for that reason, the book is brilliant.
I listened to this one on audio and Amy Rubinate narrated this very well.