Published by Picador on March 15, 2016
Genres/Lists: #30Authors, Diverse, Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
If you don’t have Shelter by Jung Yun on your reading list yet, add it now because it’s going to be big (plus she’s a #30Authors contributor!). I’d like to say you heard it here first, but Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves and the New York Times beat me to it. It’s a harrowing novel that explores the difficulties in escaping a heartbreaking past, the hidden resentments lurking beneath the surface of a complicated family, and what desperation can drive a person to do.
Shelter is many stories within a story. First, it’s about Kyung Cho, a Korean-American who grew up in a family that was affluent but lacked any type of affection or emotional support. Desperate to provide his son with a different life but unable to let go of his resentments, Kyung struggles in his role as husband, father, and son and to reconcile his past with his present. It’s also the story of the Cho family. When a brutally violent act is perpetrated against Kyung’s parents, his sense of duty requires that he take them in. In doing so, he comes face-to-face with the life he tried so hard to escape. Lastly, it’s the story of a marriage and how one person’s past can affect another’s future.
Suffice to say, Shelter took me on an emotional roller coaster. Yun’s ability to paint a family as complex and nuanced as the Cho’s is masterful. Many authors choose to tackle one major theme in a book, such as marriage, or to skim the surface of several themes without diving too deeply into any of them. Yun does neither – she boldly jumps headfirst into several major themes, including marriage, racism, and family, and wraps them so tightly together that it’s impossible to pull them apart. She also draws out the very real ways in which racism, fear, duty, and desperation impact both an individual and an entire family for decades.If Shelter by @jungyun71 isn't on your summer reading list, then add it now. Here's why: Click To Tweet
To be honest, it was, at times, a really difficult book to read. The violent act that sets the story in motion is horrific, but it’s the family dynamic that drives the story forward. It also left me with warring emotions. There were times when I had empathy for people I should have hated and times I hated people I should have had empathy for. It wasn’t until I was finished the book that I was able to sort through it all, but the fact that I had any sorting to do is proof that I needed to read it.
Shelter also shines a light on what it means to be a Korean-American. While I can’t speak to the authenticity of how this is portrayed, one Twitter user said that, “As an Asian American, this book spoke so much to my experiences.” Because of that, I paid more attention to the cultural aspects of the book than I would have, otherwise, and it’s a richer book because of it. Having never experienced racism firsthand, it can be difficult to truly grasp the ways in which it affects a person’s wellbeing and choices. Yet, Yun paints a vivid picture that will stay with me for a long time.
Recommended for: Readers who don’t shy away from the skeletons in the closet and are intrigued by dysfunctional families.