Marjorie Celona’s debut novel Y is a beautifully written story about love, loss and belonging. The tale opens in the early hours of the morning as a young woman abandons her newborn daughter on the steps of the Victoria YMCA.
The book is written in two narratives with Shannon, in alternating chapters, tracing her life from birth through her adolescence and sharing the story of her mother, Yula, beginning a few days before her daughters birth and the tragedy leading up to the scene at the YMCA, where she set down her baby, wrapped in an old, grey sweatshirt, and walks swiftly away without looking back.
Shannon’s story is a typical tale of a child thrust into the social services system, constantly moving from foster home to foster home all the while feeling lost, alone — a misfit everywhere she lands. Her wildly curly white-blond hair, her one blind eye and small stature only serve to emphasize her difference from those around her.
Eventually, Shannon is taken in by Miranda a single mother with a daughter, Lydia-Rose. As Shannon strives to find a way to fit into this little family, she is hindered by an overwhelming desire to discover the answers to her many questions — “Where did I come from? Who are my parents and especially — Why did my mother abandon me? ”
Shannon’s longing to find her place in the world pushes her to embark upon a search for identity and belonging and along the way she finds that the answers to her big questions sometimes leads to surprising endings.
Ms. Celona’s writing creates a compelling, bittersweet picture of the age-old desire to be a part of something, to know where we come from and why life unfolds as it does. Her characters, in this novel, are very real and their emotions and actions feel familiar. The novel is eminently readable and while the story is very sad, there is a sense of hope that permeates throughout, notwithstanding the book’s darkest moments.