Review:Y by Marjorie Celona

Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: January 2013
Categories: Family Life, General, Literary
Source: Free Press
“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. 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.

My Thoughts:

I really liked the narration by both Shannon and her birth mother Yuri. They are both told in the 1st person but with a 3rd person’s all knowing ways. Shannon couldn’t actually remember what it was like to be a tiny infant left on the front steps of a YMCA but somehow you believe and understand every word.

There doesn’t seem to be a place where Shannon fits. Some of the foster families she is placed with work out for a while, some are downright dangerous. Even when she finds her forever home she feels out of place and in competition with a new sister that doesn’t want to share her bedroom or her mother.

Shannon’s birth mother Yuri is living an ugly life that is largely out of her control. Her father is a depressive mess and her boyfriend is becoming a drug addict. Despite doing everything she can to protect her young son and her unborn baby she makes a poor decision that leads to awful results.

Great characters, great story, great ending!

I have a feeling that you will be hearing a lot about this book and about this debut author. Y has been long listed for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most distinguished literary prize.

16 thoughts on “Review:Y by Marjorie Celona

  1. Great commentary as usual Jennifer!Your description of this book makes it sound like it could be non – fiction. The world of foster care, people living on the margins, all this entwined with things like drug abuse and depression sounds very realistic. This sounds good!


  2. I'm 75% through the book and don't want it to end. I think Marjorie is utterly brilliant. Not to mention that I have a special place in my heart for her since I used to babysit her when she was about two. I remember thinking, \”I wonder what who she's going to be when she grows up.\” Now I know. My heartiest congratulations to this new author.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s