Y – Marjorie Celona

Published February 19, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“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 and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. Swaddled in a dirty gray sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife tucked between her feet, little Shannon is discovered by a man who catches only a glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. That morning, all three lives are forever changed. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures abuse and neglect until she finally finds stability with Miranda, a kind but no-nonsense single mother with a free-spirited daughter of her own. Yet Shannon defines life on her own terms, refusing to settle down, and never stops 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, tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

What did I think?:

This novel is the January release for the Waterstones Eleven, please see my previous post HERE. I am a bit late in reading this, but I’m so glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it. From the very first lines, a treat of what is to come is set up for the reader. For example, in describing the letter Y as: “A modest X, legs closed,” we are treated to the vivid imagery and piercing insights that are so prevalent in this novel. The story is told from the perspective of Shannon, who was abandoned as a baby by her mother Yula, although alternating chapters also give us Yula’s story, and we learn a little more about the events (sometimes horrific) leading up to Shannon’s abandonment.

Okay, so the subject matter isn’t exactly cheery. An abandoned baby, abuse and neglect aren’t really “skipping round the hills singing The Sound of Music” kind of subjects, but somehow Celona manages to make the story uplifting and hopeful by the final chapter. I think some people may get bogged down by the dark subject material though, so if you’re looking for a feel-good book, this probably isn’t for you. For me though, it was a beautiful piece of writing from a talented author that I am looking forward to reading more from.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



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