January 2013 Indie Next List
“Y is a book about the 'whys' of two lives. Why did one woman abandon her newly born daughter at the door of a YMCA? Why was it so hard for that little girl to find a real home? Why do we sometimes embrace responsibility, and sometimes run away from it? Why are people cruel to the helpless and the innocent? The characters in this book are flawed and stumbling -- in other words, very human and very memorable. The issues of what it means to be a family and the meaning of 'home' are challenged, remolded, and puzzled into a story that is not always easy to read, but is difficult to put down and is impossible to forget.”
— Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
“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.
About the Author
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.
"[A] heartfelt first novel . . . . Ms. Celona adroitly confounds many of our expectations . . . . It's refreshing to read a novel in which questions are not so much answered as extended, and Shannon is an appealing narrator... Celona is compassionate toward even her most wayward characters, figuring wisely that the consequences of their actions will be punishment enough."
"[A] stunning debut novel . . . Celona creates a beautifully tangled web that is equal parts mystery (seriously, this one's a page-turner), poetry and deep rumination on the meaning of family."
"An effervescent debut . . . . A meditation on loss, identity, and family, Y showcases a tenacious young writer as she schools us in compassion and ultimately cleans house."
"As a newborn, Shannon is abandoned at the local “Y”—and then spends much of her young life asking “Why?” The cards seem stacked against Shannon as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. Celona reconstructs the story with an almost Faulkner-ian complexity [and] writes movingly about basic questions of identity."
“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
“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.”
“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