Brunt's first novel elegantly pictures the New York art world of the 1980s, suburban Westchester and the isolation of AIDS.
Fourteen-year-old June and 16-year-old Greta travel to Manhattan every few Sundays to be with Finn, their uncle. Finn is a renowned artist, dying of a largely unknown disease, and claims he wants to give them this last gift, though more likely it is the contact he craves. June and Finn have an intense relationship—he is charismatic and brilliant and takes her to special places; he is part magic and part uncle, and June adores him. Greta is jealous; she feels Finn favors June and stole her away. When he dies, June is devastated. At the funeral they see the one not to be mentioned: Finn’s lover, Toby. June’s mother refuses to admit him to the service and blames him for her baby brother’s disease. Slowly, June and Toby develop a secret friendship, indulging their grief and keeping Finn alive through the exchange of memories. What she thought was simply Finn’s apartment she discovers was their shared space, and much of what she loved about the place, and Finn, belongs to Toby. As she and Toby embark on Finn-worthy adventures, Greta is slowly falling apart, hiding in the woods drunk, sabotaging her chance at a summer stint on Broadway. Finn’s portrait of the girls, worth nearly $1 million, is kept in a bank vault, and every time June visits (only she and Greta have keys) she notices additions to the painting that could only come from Greta. With Toby dying and Greta in danger, June lifts the covers off all of her family’s secrets.
There is much to admire in this novel. The subtle insight on sibling rivalry and the examination of love make for a poignant debut.