THE BOOK CLUB’S READ NO. 46 WITH DISCUSSION TO BE HELD ON MAY 28, 2013
1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most. ~ Goodreads
Discussion Questions via the author’s website:
1) Toby initiates a relationship with June that necessarily involves secrets kept from her parents. Can this ever be right? Is it ever okay for an adult to have a secret relationship with a child? Even if it’s formed out of the best of intentions?
2) Every relationship in the book is tinged with jealousy and/or envy. How is this played out in each of the relationships? Can jealousy ever be a positive thing? Does loving someone too much always lead to jealousy?
3) “My mother gave me a disappointed look. Then I gave her one back. Mine was for everything, not just the sandwich.” Readers have said that they feel very negatively towards June’s mother, Danni. How do you feel about her? How much is she to blame for the events in the book?
4) “The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible.” How does this speak to the events in Tell the Wolves I’m Home? Can terrible things like AIDS ever result in small good things?
5) “You get into habits with people. Ways of being with them…” Toby says this to June when they’re talking about her relationship with Greta. Many sisters (and brothers) have fractious relationships as teenagers then grow up to be friends. Do you think that will be the case with Greta and June? Have you had an experience like this with your own sibling(s)?
6) If you were around in the late 80s, do you remember anything about your perception of AIDS and the fear surrounding the disease?
7) How has society’s reaction to homosexuality changed over the last 25 years? Could this story have taken place in 2012?
8) Greta is older, more savvy and knows more than June, but June sometimes seems wiser than her sister. How is this so? Does knowledge always equal wisdom?
9) Do you think June will ever show Greta the secret basement room and the stash of Finn’s paintings or will she always keep this to herself?
10) Do you blame June for what happens to Toby towards the end of the book? Do you think June will ever forgive herself for what happened that night?
11) Do you think the portrait was more beautiful before or after it was restored to its original state. Can a work of art ever be improved on by external additions or is the artist’s vision and intention the most important aspect of art?
12) June would like to escape to the Middle Ages. All her favorite places are escapist in nature. Would June actually be happy if her wish of time travel was granted? How does that wish change over the course of the story? Is escapism ever valuable? How do you escape?