Synopses & Reviews
“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.
"Sixteen-year-old Shannon isn't sure if she's a drifter by choice or by necessity; her earliest years were characterized first by her abandonment on the doorstep of the YMCA on Vancouver Island and, as she grew, by a series of foster homes, some truly horrific, others merely neglectful. Even after she's taken in at the age of five by Miranda, a single mom who raises Shannon affectionately alongside her own child, Shannon still longs to belong. Unsettled and propelled by feelings of otherness, she investigates her origins, risking the new, stable connections she's made. Shannon's first-person narration which begins at the moment of her abandonment, intentionally challenging the artifice of narration alternates with chapters focusing on her birth mother, Yula, and on what led Yula to abandon her baby. Shannon's awkwardness and emotional vulnerability make her an easy character to care for, but her physical oddities and sexual experimentation read as transparent attempts at generating conflict. While Shannon's story might offer hope for anyone involved in a nontraditional family, Yula's story is more compelling. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“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
“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
“Marjorie Celona’s Y is moving and utterly beautiful. Dark and bright, fresh and original, this novel grabs you and doesn’t let go. What an extraordinary new voice!” Amanda Boyden, author of Pretty Little Dirty
“I was enraptured by Shannon’s fierce searching heart....With a child’s defiance, hurt and brittle vulnerability, she led me through a world littered with the abandoned, lost, and broken and brought back forgiveness.” Shandi Mitchell, author of Under this Unbroken Sky
“Marjorie Celona’s Y isn’t merely an extraordinary debut; it would be cause for celebration if it were the author’s second or fifth or twentieth novel. There’s so much to relish: the nimbly interbraided stories of a mother and daughter...the lovely, lucid, haunting prose; the subtle, precise command of tone. But above all I marvel at Celona’s clear-eyed and heartbreakingly complex depiction of...the fierce, flawed, lovable people at this terrific novel’s heart. These are indelible characters, and Y is a triumph.” Michael Griffith, author of Trophy
“Y is the story of humanity’s first question: Who am I? This novel tells a pain-filled, utterly essential quest to know who one’s family is. There is Oedipus. There is Pip. Now there is Shannon, compelled to search through unbearable secrets and trauma. The style is accomplished, the voice hauntingly matter-of-fact.” Kim Echlin, author of The Disappeared
“I couldn’t get enough of Shannon, the charming, brave, and blistering heart of this novel. She’s open to everyone she meets — mothers, fathers, the homeless, the addicted — so her story is too. Marjorie Celona has written a novel that is funny, contemporary, and heartbreaking, a novel that is in love with life.” Deborah Willis, author of Vanishing and Other Stories
“Richly textured, gritty, surprising, and innocent, Marjorie Celona’s tale of an abandoned child explores the undercurrents of small town experience; it’s a blue-collar world of courage, goodness, and violence . . . Celona has mapped place and class in a way I haven’t read before, and she has created a character with such heart that I didn’t want the story to end.”
—Marilyn Bowering, author of What It Takes to Be Human
"[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." The New York Times
"[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." PureWow Books
For fans of White Oleander
and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
, an exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child searching for a home, entwined with the heartbreaking story of the mother who abandoned her.
“Y. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wine glass. The question we ask over and over. Why? My life begins at the Y…” so opens the story of Shannon, a newborn left at the doors of the local YMCA. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures neglect and abuse before she finally finds stability with Miranda, a single mother with a daughter of her own. But as Shannon grows, so do her questions. Who is her true family? Why would her parents abandon Shannon on the day she was born?
The answers lie in the heartrending tale of her mother, a headstrong young woman with a flawed and desperate fate, trapped in a tragic series of events that will destroy her family and test the limits of her compassion and sacrifice.
Sparkling with wit and surprisingly tender insights, Marjorie Celona’s extraordinary novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family. As the story builds, present and past converge to shape a unique and lasting story of identity and inheritance. Y marks the debut of an astonishing new talent.
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.