“Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why?…My life begins at the Y.”
So opens Marjorie Celona’s highly acclaimed, exquisite debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures abuse and neglect until she finally finds stability with Miranda, a kind but no-nonsense single mother. Yet Shannon defines life on her own terms, refusing to settle down and continually longing to uncover her roots—especially the stubborn question of why her mother would abandon her on the day she was born.
Brilliantly and hauntingly interwoven with Shannon’s story is the tale of her mother, Yula, a girl herself, who is facing a desperate fate in the hours and days leading up to Shannon’s birth. As past and present converge, Y tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Celona’s ravishingly beautiful novel, where “questions are not so much answered as extended” (The New York Times), offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family.
Lydia - 4 Star
Y: A Novel is an intriguing read full of the question, why. In parts quirky, disturbing and charming, I found this novel an absorbing read that I couldn't seem to put down.
The beginning of this novel is unique as it tells Shannon's story from the moment she was born through the first few years of her life in a detached, observant voice. Then, when she's old enough to narrate, we switch to first person and read her childish and then youthful perspective as she yearns to discover the truth about her life and her past.
Shannon is such a lost soul. You can't help but feel sorry for her, and want her to find herself and her place in the world after being shuffled from foster home to foster home, finding an adoptive family, but still floundering, searching, wondering, questioning.
Celona doesn't shy away from the more disturbing elements in the foster care system and Vancouver's darker side. Both Shannon's life and that of her mother, Yula, are often difficult to read about. Shannon's disruptive behaviour and acting out lands her in several precarious positions, but I was pleasantly surprised at how she handled herself during several more disturbing scenes. I was never sure if she would fall to pieces or pull herself through and I loved that about this book.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the alternating narrative between Shannon's story and Yula's and I found myself equally absorbed and compelled to read both. And when I read about Shannon, I found myself wondering about Yula's and vice versa, continuously hoping I would be able to return to their story soon. This novel flowed seamlessly despite the jumps in narrative and past to present story lines, which was marvelous.
I had one huge beef with this novel, and that was that my egalley ran out with 24 pages left. It's not really the novel's fault, and I my rating doesn't reflect this, but I still felt jilted, and am in desperate need to finish. Sadly, I cannot locate this one at my local book store. I'm afraid I may have to followup with Shannon and Yula at a later date and this makes me sad. But I had to share my thoughts about this one, regardless of not quite finishing it, because it was a really solid read.
Y:A Novel is a wonderful debut and a great Canadian read. I'm sure we'll be hearing more from this talented voice.
Thank you to Free Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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