Published by Free Press
Publication date: January 8th 2013
Genres: Coming-of-age, Contemporary, Debut, Fiction
In my head, late at night, I draft letters to my mother and my father. I say everything I want to say, everything that needs to be said. In my head I am so eloquent.
Abandoned on the steps of a YMCA Shannon is destined to become a foster care statistic. She is an unusual child with special needs due to her mother’s drug use before her birth. By the time she is five she has been with three families including the most recent where the father found her fidgeting so intolerable he squeezed her arm until it broke. She finally ends up with Miranda, a single mother with a daughter Shannon’s age, Lydia-Rose. It is here she will live until adulthood but even with the stability of a safe home Shannon cannot settle. She feels Lydia-Rose’s resentment at having to share her mother and cannot acclimate to school or make friends. She loves her foster mother but is unable to let go of the fears that keep her heart closed. Her desire to find her parents feels like the only way to heal the wound of “Why?”.
I’m just trying to find some way to spend the time. People talk about when you’re young as being full of possibilities, but the uncertainty of it all makes me feel lost and insane. I try to be cheerful. I try to live in the present. But it’s hard.
Y is Shannon’s story, told from her point of view, but it is interspersed with the life of Yula, her mother, up to the point when she leaves Shannon behind. Author Marjorie Celona probes the hearts and minds of both with such dexterity that it’s possible to feel the pain of each without judgment for either. Shannon is a misfit with wild white hair and a lazy eye coupled with a mind that cannot settle down and a mouth that speaks whatever she thinks. Yula is a product of a tumultuous violent marriage and an isolated upbringing on an island outside Vancouver, BC. While only 15 she gives birth to her first child and raises him on her father’s property. By the time she is seventeen and pregnant with Shannon she is not only certain she is unfit to be a parent but questions whether she should even be alive.
A sense of sorrow permeates Y as Celona skillfully portrays the inner lives of not only Yula and Shannon but each of the ancillary characters as well. Ultimately, they are all doing their best even when their efforts appear incomprehensible to others. When Shannon begins her journey she believes she is alone in the world and only through her search does she discover she is not. Y is painful and tender, a realistic look at what family means and to what lengths we will go to have one.