This is a deceptively simple book, narrated by a girl who was fourteen years old in suburban New York City in 1987, at the height of the hysteria in the nation about AIDS. It is about relationships, envy, and jealousy, and is a book I very much enjoyed reading.
June Eubus lives in Westchester with her parents (both tax accountants) and her sixteen year old sister, Greta. While Greta is sparkling and vivacious (and a senior in high school, because she skipped a grade, a fact none of her classmates knows), June is quite average, except for her penchant for things medieval, to the point where she wishes she was living in the Middle Ages. She shared this penchant with her beloved uncle Finn (her mother’s only sibling), living by himself in an apartment in New York City, who would take her to the Cloisters to revel in the far past. This past is better than her present; for reasons she does not understand, her sister now treats her spitefully, and has done so for about two years.
Uncle Finn was an artist, and in mid-1986 decided that he wanted to paint a portrait of June and Greta, as his last painting, since he is dying of AIDS. When Finn dies, June gets the phone call of his passing, from a man with a Yorkshire accent, and at the funeral, she sees a man outside; she is told that “he’s the man who killed Finn”. The media finds out about Finn Weiss’s last painting; he had been retired from painting for ten years, and they speculate that this painting could be worth in the range of $700,000. June finds out that her uncle made one last request of her, that she take care of Toby, the man with whom he was involved during the last ten years, and finds that Toby was also living with Finn, but that she had never known about him.
While June is finding out more about Toby, her sister is in rehearsals to play Bloody Mary in the school musical of South Pacific, and has been recommended to appear in Annie on Broadway. Her relationship with her sister deteriorates; however, during the tax season her parents leave the house very early and return very late, leaving June free for her clandestine forays to know more about the man that her mother hates so deeply.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think that it is a good book for us to discuss in our Third Tuesday Book Club meeting tomorrow night (January 19th, 2016).