Book Review: Y by Marjorie Celona

A unique writing style tells an interesting story.

Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wine glass. The question we ask over and over. Why? My life begins at Y.

And so begins the story of Shannon, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the YMCA. She is found moments later by a man who catches a glimpse of her mother as she disappears. Shannon endures neglect and abuse as she bounces from foster home to foster home. She eventually finds herself in a stable and loving home, but as she grows so do the questions. Where is she from? Who is her true family? Why would they abandon her on the day she was born? Shannon searches for her story and the man who found her hoping to learn about her parents.

The above describes the story but the way it is told is quite unique. Shannon is the narrator. She tells the story of a time before she was born, and the time in the present as she searches for answers. The narration changes from present tense to past tense but not in the way you would expect. It is irregular, inconsistent and as the past merges with the present the narrator is in the present. I found this style unusual. It wasn’t confusing but I didn’t much care for it. Why write about the past in the present tense? That made no sense to me.

But this doesn’t take away from the story itself. It is an intriguing read wherein the reader not only identifies and empathizes with Shannon, but her birth mother as well. Her mother, Yula, is not a bad person. She also grew up in an unfortunate situation. One can only sympathize with her and her situation from HER birth up to the birth of Shannon.

Y. It also stands for YMCA and Yula. It is why you should read this story.

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Published in: Family


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  1. Great book review – you make me want to read the book. Hmmm..I wonder if my local library has it.

  2. I am reading Y. Y also stands for ‘why’. I’m utterly intriqued by Marjorie’s writing. Yes, she breaks all the rules, but in such a skillful way that few writers can achieve. I’m hooked and very glad the story isn’t over in a few chapters. I want it to last for a very long time. I also have a special place in my heart for Marjorie because I babysat her a few times when she was around two. I remember thinking, “I wonder who she’ll be when she grows up.” Now I know. Congratulations to Marjorie Celona for some very fine writing.

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