By: Jung Yun
Narrator: Raymond Lee
Publication Date: 3/15/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
You can never know what goes on behind closed doors.
One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year (Selected by Edan Lepucki)
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?
As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.
SHELTER by Jung Yun is an emotional domestic suspense debut of an immigrant family—seeking shelter from life’s messiness- a childhood, finances, violence, parents, and marriage. Stunning front cover of a family crumbling-destruction. What goes on behind closed doors? Korean American Kyung Cho, a 36-yr. old professor of biology at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, and his American wife, Gillian--their life is unbalanced. He is bitter--having issues with his own young son, an unfulfilled career, and a troubled marriage. They have lived off credit cards, and have looked into selling the house; however, due to the economy, it is not worth it. Their family finances are unraveling and he and his wife, Gillian are forced to rent out their home and move in with his parents. Things have spiraled out of control. From pain and loneliness, from past to present—from shame, disapproval to anger. Painting a realistic picture of how most Americans live beyond their means. The fallout of abuse. Hidden family secrets. From poor decisions, which have caught up with this family. The author ties in two generations--Jin and Mae, the parents –who appear to have all the comforts anyone would desire on the exterior. His parents are very wealthy. However, even though they provided for him, they were distant. They provided the material possessions; however, not the emotional. Hidden family secrets. Heartbreaking. When the unspeakable happens, an act of violence--roles are reversed. They have to take care of the parents. Old hurts and pent up anger surface. The relationship between a child and parent. His parents were not so perfect. There was abuse. His parent’s relationship was not of love. An untangling of lies. A tragedy. Can a man start over? A safe place in the middle. Forgiveness? A powerful inter-generational debut. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Raymond Lee for an emotional and insightful look into complex family dynamics- even though at times felt a little long and drawn out. An example of our American post-financial crisis. Sensitive, brutally honest, haunting, and gripping—crossing between a suburban psychological suspense, contemporary, mystery, domestic, family drama and a complex crime saga.
"Gripping...[Shelter] keeps excess at bay. Yun shows how, although shelter doesn’t guarantee safety and blood doesn’t guarantee love, there’s something inextricable about the relationship between a child and a parent…Shelter is captivating.”―The New York Times Book Review
“[A] harrowing hybrid of wrenching domestic drama and nail-biting crime procedural―Ordinary People meets In Cold Blood.”―Passport
“[A] fearless and thrilling debut.”―Town & Country
“Yun keeps the suspense and family drama racing neck and neck... Shelter is a suspenseful, illuminating first novel.”―Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com (Nine Books to Read This Month)
"The combination of grisly James Patterson thriller and melancholic suburban drama shouldn’t work at all. Yet Ms. Yun pulls it off...The proximity of Kyung's parents and the atmosphere of grief and panic launch him on a spiral of self-destruction that’s impossible to turn away from."―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“If you want high stakes and suspense, you've found your book (I mean, just look at that cover). Jung Yun writes about family and identity and the tight bond between them ― especially when circumstances change in startling ways…Shelter will get your heart beating for sure.”―Bustle, Most Anticipated Books of the Year
"This troubling, moving work from Yun explores what it means to be part of a family, even if it’s nothing close to the one you might choose for yourself."―DuJour, What to Read This Month
“Poignant, spellbinding, and profound, Shelter will keep you up until the wee hours. In her brilliant debut novel, Yun skillfully untangles this snarled web of family lies, tragedy, identity, and loss. Redemption is hard-earned, and kindness comes in rare and unexpected places, but hope shimmers just beneath the surface. This is a book of heartbreaking genius.”―Mira Bartók, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and bestselling author of The Memory Palace
“Jung Yun's Shelter is an urgent novel, a book so alive, contemporary, and, above all, honest, that it could only exist right now.”―James Scott, bestselling author of The Kept
“Magnetic, searing, insightful, Shelter is a mic-drop of a debut: a story of post-financial crisis America that establishes Jung Yun as a necessary new voice in American fiction.”―Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Like Celeste Ng’s super-lauded best seller, Everything You Never Told Me, also about a dysfunctional mixed-race family’s tragedy, [Shelter] should find itself on best-of lists, among major award nominations, and in eager readers’ hands everywhere."―Library Journal (starred review)
"Shelter maintains its narrative momentum right to the end...[A] valiant portray of contemporary American life."―Kirkus Reviews
"Skilled [and] deeply disconcerting...A work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight."―Booklist
“With each page, Yun takes us deeper into Kyung’s troubles…As the crime drama unfolds in the background, Yun expertly explores what it means to be an immigrant in America, the true value of tradition, the parent-child bond, what makes a good marriage, and the need for forgiveness… Yun introduces us to a man riddled with anger and self-doubt, leaving the reader to judge whether time can truly mend what’s broken.”―BookPage
“In her intense debut, Yun explores the powerful legacy of familial violence and the difficulty of finding the strength and grace to forgive... This family drama [is] rife with tension and unexpected ironies.”―Publishers Weekly
“[Shelter] builds suspense with maturity and assurance…Yun's powerful debut novel leaves a memorable wake.”―Shelf Awareness
About the Author
JUNG YUN was born in South Korea, grew up in North Dakota, and educated at Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her work has appeared in Tin House (the "Emerging Voices" issue); The Best of Tin House: Stories, edited by Dorothy Allison; and The Massachusetts Review; and she is a recipient of an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize and an Artist's Fellowship in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband. Shelter is her first novel. Read More