I picked up SHELTER by Jung Yun, because the topic seemed current. And the writing is very good. But I kept reading because the story is so compelling!
Kyung Cho and his Irish-American wife Gillian, have outspent themselves. Charging extravagant vacations for years and never paying them off, they’ve gotten themselves backed into a wall. A wall they have no idea how to pry themselves from. Kyung is Korean-American. The couple have a young son who is four.
SHELTER is powerful and filled with messages. Do we ever know the people down the street? What goes on behind closed doors? What does the word shelter really mean?
Kyung’s parents live in the elite community up on the top of the hill. The place where all homes are mansions. This does not necessarily mean all is well and good. There are secrets between his parents that no one knows but Kyung. Those appalling, hidden hush-hush “occurrences” are brought to the surface in a violent way early on in the novel.
Kyung is showing his house to a real estate agent one morning when he sees a woman running haltingly through his backyard. She is naked and bruised. At a second look he realizes that this is his own mother, Mae. The novel’s dynamic changes in a blink of an eye. Why is Mae naked and bruised? And running to Kyung for help?
This novel picked up steam just when I needed it to. I was more than half finished and beginning to tire, and then we were off and running one more time. The shocking event that changes the cadence of the novel is not the pivoting part of the story. This is a story much larger than one event. Shelter is much more than having a roof over ones head. We need shelter for feelings, for love, and for hope.
I kept thinking I was missing something. That something was in the character of Kyung. Sometimes flat, never allowing us to totally feel his pain. Having said this, this is an extraordinary tale of family, loss, and the will to overcome. It’s a great first novel and I look forward to more from Yun.
Jung Yun was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband.
My review copy came from Picador in exchange for an honest review.