"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 am almost 100 pages into Marjorie Celona's Y and regret that I cannot sincerely recommend it. The biggest issue I have is that the voice of her protagonist does not ring true; presented in first person present, even as an infant she's in and out of everyone's head with fully developed and highly perceptive adult observations and when she does start actually speaking at three years old, she sounds like a sullen teenager with a vocabulary that would gain her early admission to Yale. Sadly, the author has sacrificed authenticity and story in order to showcase her own talent at descriptive writing. The result is passage after passage of stunning writing that is lost in a din of false notes." - BookBrowse
"Compelling This is at once a moving coming-of-age story full of fresh starts, a haunting family story full of heavy disappointments, and an extraordinarily quiet story full of hope." - Booklist
"Shannon's first-person narrationwhich begins at the moment of her abandonment, intentionally challenging the artifice of narrationalternates with chapters focusing on her birth mother, Yula, and on what led Yula to abandon her baby. Shannon's awkwardness and emotional vulnerability make her an easy character to care for, but her physical oddities and sexual experimentation read as transparent attempts at generating conflict. While Shannon's story might offer hope for anyone involved in a nontraditional family, Yula's story is more compelling." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. Celona reconstructs the story with an almost Faulkner-ian complexity as Shannon moves back and forth through the chronology of her life but also through her imaginative vision of her parents' relationship...Celona writes movingly about basic questions of identity, questions exacerbated by the unhappy circumstances of Shannon's birth." - Kirkus
"I love ambition in a novel. I love humour, audacity, perseverance, craft. And I am deeply grateful when it gets exquisitely blended in a brand-new voice. Marjorie Celona's debut weaves the twin stories of a foster child's search for home and the raw account of her mother's decision to abandon her newborn. Y is an evocative look into what makes a family, and what makes a home, and how they are undeniably helixed together." - Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
"Y is everything I'm hoping for when I open a book - suspenseful, compelling, psychologically deft, and beautifully written, with characters so alive they seem to be in the room. Marjorie Celona is a brilliant writer at the start of a brilliant career." - Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You and Me and The History of Us
"A wee baby girl is left behind and even before she opens her eyes, she begins to describe her extraordinary world. Y is filled with heartbreaking loss and flawed heroes yet Celona's writing is filled with grace and compassion." - Heather O'Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals
"Marjorie Celona's Y is the best novel I've read this year ... [A]n unforgettable story about the nature of time itself, the way our past is always alive in the present, shaping us into who we are. With more honesty, compassion, and warmth than is sometimes fashionable in contemporary fiction, this novel will stay with you long after the last page is turned." - Anthony Varallo, author of Out Loud
"I was enraptured by Shannon's fierce searching heart ... With a child's defiance, hurt and brittle vulnerability, she led me through a world littered with the abandoned, lost, and broken and brought back forgiveness." - Shandi Mitchell, author of Under this Unbroken Sky
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Rated of 5
Y is a compelling look at one young girl’s fight to find the birthmother who abandoned her on the front step of the YMCA on the day she was born, wrapped in a dirty grey sweatshirt with a Swiss Army knife tucked in as something to remember her by.
Although we discover some of the answers we wanted to know by the end of the book, I would have liked a couple more chapters to explain a few others things, but I suppose those are left up to our imaginations. I read this book in two afternoons as I just couldn’t put it down. Well done!
Marjorie Celona received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of the John C. Schupes fellowship. Her stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Glimmer Train, and Harvard Review. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she lives in Cincinnati.
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