Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada ( A H C ) on August 1st 2012
"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, Y tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Celona's ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family, and it marks the debut of a magnificent new voice in contemporary fiction.
I don’t think I have ever been so sad to see a book end. It caught me by surprise and I must have stared at the last page for 5 minutes before I finally closed the book. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you don’t want to lose. I grew so attached to the main character that I almost cried.
One of my favourite things about this book is the way it was written. The narrative is beautiful and 150% suits how you imagine Shannon would think if she was an actual human being. She doesn’t always describe what’s going on in full sentences, but when you think about it, when does anyone in real life think to themselves in full sentences when something is going on? I sure don’t. In my opinion the narrative is pretty much what made this book exceptional.
I loved how not one character in this book was perfect. Their flaws don’t get pointed out blatantly, but you know that they have them and you know what they are for the most part. It’s like you’ve been talking to this character for a bit and you notice they have a tick or something. Their flaws are slipped in just like that. And it makes them so much more vivid and life like.
Last but not least, the plot. I only have one word for this: phenomenal. I seriously can’t explain it any other way. If I had the time and I thought someone would actually read it, I’d write two pages on just the plot alone. It flowed so smoothly and weaved together so wonderfully that I didn’t even feel like I was reading a book. No questions were left unanswered, and yet there was still a hint of mystery at the end. But I was left satisfied instead of upset with that.
I would, and have already, recommend this book to everyone I meet. Strangers walking down the street might even be told to read this book. I loved it that much.