This is a surprisingly moving story about a young girl, June, whose uncle Finn is dying of AIDS in the mid-1980s. June and Finn have an unusually close relationship for an uncle and niece and so it hits hard that Finn is so fatally ill. During his last weeks, he spends each Sunday afternoon painting a portrait of June and her sister Greta, who does everything in her power to avoid posing for these sessions. June’s relationship with Finn seems to have cut a wedge between her and her sister, Greta, and so the story develops around Finn’s death and its complicated aftermath.
From the first page, the book had me loving Finn just as June did, feeling everything June felt in the fantasy world of the adolescent girl. The relationships that develop and the love and the hate that stems from them are all so extreme and so normal that it pulls at your heart. While some of it is a little far-fetched (a teenager’s absence from school does not go so unnoticed in schools in Westchester, for example, even with parents working as long hours as hers did), it is romantic and emotional and sweet nonetheless.
I can see this appealing to a wide range of ages, from teens to older adults. The teens can relate to the teens in the story while the older adults (I guess I have to include myself in this less-than-desirable category!) can appreciate the historical perspective on the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. But it is a far-reaching story that also appeals to anyone with a family and a heart.