Author: Jung Yun
Genre: Literary Fiction
Release Date: March 15, 2015
Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.
A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?
I found out about Shelter on a list of 2016 Literary Fiction releases, and I fell in love with it right away upon reading the synopsis. I had to have it, so I gathered up my courage to request it from the publisher. To my surprise, they sent it to me! I have to say, I’m glad I took the leap, because this is such a great book.
Shelter deals with family dynamics over multiple generations. Kyung is Korean-American and his parents are Koreans who immigrated to America, so there is another level of complexity in their relationship. The book also explores forgiveness. Kyung’s childhood wasn’t the best and his parent were to blame for that. It was hard watching him struggle with whether he could or should forgive his parents.
The catalyst for much of the novel is money. Kyung and his family struggle to make ends meet, and it is causes friction in his marriage. His parents, on the other hand, have as much money as they need. They live comfortably. It begs the question: What is more important: emotional stability or financial stability? Kyung’s wife really frustrated me in this novel. She didn’t seem to care about his feelings or past trauma whatsoever. All she could see was money.
This book was quite a page-turner. I flew through it! The style of writing was right up alley. Everything flowed really well and the prose was nice, but not too flower-y. It was just right. My only gripe with Shelter was the resolution. It ended the way that Yun saw fit, and that is fine. These characters are her creation and she knows more than anyone what they would or would not do. However, I personally just couldn’t get over the ending. That is the only reason this book isn’t 5 stars for me.
I will definitely be picking up a final copy of this book when it comes out on March 15, 2015. Jung Yun wrote a fantastic first novel and I can’t wait read whatever she writes in the future!
I received this ARC from Picador in exchange for an honest review.