Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Y by Marjorie Celona

Y (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Marjorie Celona

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2002358,750 (3.71)14
Authors:Marjorie Celona
Info:Toronto : H.H., 2012.
Collections:Your library

Work details

Y by Marjorie Celona (2012)

  1. 20
    Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill (Yells)
  2. 21
    Room by Emma Donoghue (Iudita)
    Iudita: Another story about a troubled childhood, narrated by the child.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 14 mentions

English (22)  German (1)  All (23)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
When I started this story I didn't think I would even make it past the first 20 pages, but the writing kept me reading even if the subject matter wasn't much to my liking. ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I don't think I have ever been so sad to see a book end. It caught me by surprise and I must have stared at the last page for 5 minutes before I finally closed the book. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you don't want to lose. I grew so attached to the main character that I almost cried.

One of my favourite things about this book is the way it was written. The narrative is beautiful and 150% suits how you imagine Shannon would think if she was an actual human being. She doesn't always describe what's going on in full sentences, but when you think about it, when does anyone in real life think to themselves in full sentences when something is going on? I sure don't. In my opinion the narrative is pretty much what made this book exceptional.

I loved how not one character in this book was perfect. Their flaws don't get pointed out blatantly, but you know that they have them and you know what they are for the most part. It's like you've been talking to this character for a bit and you notice they have a tick or something. Their flaws are slipped in just like that. And it makes them so much more vivid and life like.

Last but not least, the plot. I only have one word for this: phenomenal. I seriously can't explain it any other way. If I had the time and I thought someone would actually read it, I'd write two pages on just the plot alone. It flowed so smoothly and weaved together so wonderfully that I didn't even feel like I was reading a book. No questions were left unanswered, and yet there was still a hint of mystery at the end. But I was left satisfied instead of upset with that.

I would, and have already, recommend this book to everyone I meet. Strangers walking down the street might even be told to read this book. I loved it that much. ( )
  keyboardscoffee | May 30, 2016 |
A baby is abandoned at the Y. Why? Why do people choose the forks in the path that they do? People are so often incapable of recognising choices. They lack a perceptual awareness of their own abilities to influence their own course through their life. The novel follows the story of the abandoned baby and her childhood, and intersperses it with the story of her biological parents. The paths of the characters are littered with misery and bad choices. The bleakness is alleviated only a little by the naive hopes of the child.
The characters were sketched in bold strong strokes, but didn't feel filled in. The use of the city as a character itself helped compensate for this. The rich imageries of the various neighbourhoods of Victoria were replete with details that provided strong contexts for the story lines. I enjoyed this the most. As she walked her characters along Dallas Rd at the ocean front, past the World's Tallest Totem, and over to Ogden Point where the cruise ships berth, I saw it readily in my mind. The down and outs of Pandora Ave and other marginal areas dominated the book. The rural areas out west, beside a provincial park, also played true to form, harboring an eclectic mix of reclusive people who seek refuge in the environment of towering trees "forming a nave", like a church, or an Emily Carr painting, as noted by one of the characters.
( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Shannon, abandoned at birth, has a stable foster family and a good life but she is angry and unsettled and wants to find her mother. Yula is a young and pregnant; surrounded by drug abusing men and economic hardship, she does the unthinkable and gives up her newborn daughter. Two halves of the story, mother and daughter find each other and make an imperfect whole.

Beautifully written, unsympathetic look at the bonds of mother and child, tough decisions and what family really means. Step mother Miranda is the real heroine of the book. She provides Shannon with stability and tough love. The Y of the story is both the question and the fork in the road the characters face... lots of symbolism for this literary-critical mind to love. ( )
  mjspear | Dec 10, 2014 |
Y takes its title from the opening scene where 18 year old Yula leaves her newborn baby at the front door of the YMCA, and it also suggests the word “why?”, as in “why would someone abandon her baby?” The novel shifts back and forth in time and follows the baby, now named Shannon, as she is passed through foster care and eventually into a more stable home, and alternates with the story of Yula and what happens to her in the time leading up to Shannon’s birth.

Y has received rave reviews and was nominated for the Giller Prize. I’m stunned, because I thought the writing was fairly atrocious. I was able to make it through only because I listened to the audiobook, but if I’d been reading the paper copy I would have thrown it in the recycling bin before getting halfway through. A few of the negative comments I read were that readers found the characters unlikeable and the story unrelentingly depressing. This may be true, but is not my complaint.

To give the writer some credit, I think she handled the alternating storyline and the pacing well. Of course from the beginning the reader knows that this is going to be Shannon’s quest for her birth mother, and I was mildly interested in the path that would take. So it wasn’t all bad.

If I had a paper copy, I would have noted all the problems I had with how the story is written, but since I’ve already erased my electronic copy, I will just outline a few of my problems. Overall, I could see the author at work, and picture her checking her copious notes as she sat at her keyboard. I can see that she took a creative writing course, and was given the advice to add an air of reality and to paint a picture through the use of rich detail. She was also told to know absolutely everything about all her characters—not to use it in the novel necessarily, but to understand what makes them tick. Celona’s problem is that she couldn’t stop herself from including every single meaningless detail. The result is that for every minor character that is ever mentioned and every major character that enters a scene, the reader gets a sentence describing their hair, a sentence or two describing their complete outfit, and a sentence describing the effect of their physical appearance on Shannon. This made the narrative flow very clunky and mechanical. Before the end of the first chapter, it was making me scream. She also layered on the forced details like this with settings and locations. I often admire the magic an author can achieve with subtle details, but here I felt like she was bludgeoning me over the head with them.

Celona chose an unusual narrative technique, one that I will dub “first person omniscient.” The narrator, Shannon, knows details about other characters thoughts and motivations, even when she wasn’t there, even when she wasn’t born yet. Ultimately this is just a hinky form of third person narration.

And to really make sure I hated this book, Celona employs my pet peeve cliché of the young woman having sex for the first time and getting pregnant. In actuality, the chances of conceiving from any single sexual encounter is 3%-11%, but in literature, if you’re young and unmarried, it’s 100%, cause sluts have to be punished. Authors: if you want to have some credibility, stop. Please stop.

It’s pretty clear from the start where the novel would end up, and that was fine with me as it was really about the journey. However, I was surprised at how judgemental and preachy the ending was—colour me Not Impressed. ( )
3 vote Nickelini | Nov 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The backstory about Shannon’s parents is told in alternating chapters with Shannon’s story. Celona weaves in their history, leaving readers guessing as much as Shannon is guessing. It’s a skilful storytelling tactic, and the two stories race to a well-paced peak at the end of the book.

With any mystery in life there is a question: is it better to know or not to know? Celona’s book explores that question with grace, wit and insight. She’s a talented writer and this is a well-written story that is both sad and heartwarming. Once readers meet Shannon and read about her truth, they are unlikely to forget her.

One of the strongest aspects of the novel is its exploration of how memory works, and how people misremember or block traumatic events as a form of self-protection...Though the trajectory of Shannon’s life story is upward and Yula’s is downward, Celona has nevertheless infused Yula’s more deliberately paced passages with enough depth and emotion to leave the reader invested in her. When the two stories finally meet, the novel becomes a real tear-jerker. Yula’s story is enthralling – arguably more so than Shannon’s – which makes it hard to let go of as Celona summarily skips over the 17 years in Yula’s life after she abandoned Shannon.

In the final analysis, Y is an uneven novel about the interplay of chance and choice in our lives. We are born in a certain place, to certain people, but the choices we make later in life are our own.
A first novel by West Coast writer Marjorie Celona, Y, fits resonantly into the category of orphan hero novels: a newborn, wrapped in her mother’s sweatshirt, is left at the doors of the YMCA one early morning. The foundling is bounced from one family to another until she is finally adopted by a cleaning woman of great empathy, Miranda. Miranda is a single mother bringing up her own daughter Lydia-Rose but is willing to open her heart to Shannon, a small girl with candy floss hair and a strabismic eye....Y was lauded for months before its publishing date. One must take that with a grain of salt. This isn’t Dickens or Montgomery . . . yet. But it is a splendid start for a first novelist who can create characters with many of the qualities of a brave Oliver Twist or an independent Anne Shirley.
According to the ethos of this novel, then, the road to salvation is friendship and giving distressed people autonomy and learning to ride a bike — Vaughn instructs Shannon — and to express feelings. After listening to Lydia-Rose’s resentments regarding Shannon, the latter comments, “None of these things has ever been said. But once they are, I realize I’m not holding on to any pain from the past anymore.”

There are other tips for mental hygiene. Whether they are adequate to meet the needs of grown-up foundlings, the reader may decide. The novel remains engrossing, in any case. Somehow the author makes Shannon, who would be a pain in real life, not a pain for the reader, no doubt partly because evil is convincingly evoked in the novel and we, as spectators, naturally want the relatively innocent to be spared.

In Y, her stunning debut novel, Marjorie Celona has created a world so rich and so full that every line merely seems to confirm something that has already happened.

In saying so, I don’t mean to imply that her prose is predictable, but rather that it has an inevitable or ineluctable quality, a cohesion twinned with the unexpected and amazing. This is a novel that demands willing suspension of disbelief at points. But the challenge to the reader is richly rewarded...This is a novel about connections and about relationships, causal and otherwise. Despite the picaresque nature of the plot, Shannon shakes off her status as a picaro by the novel’s end. It is not surprising that she is changed by the events of her life and their recounting. The real joy is that the reader may be as well.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For my mom
First words

That perfect letter.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
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 the Y.

So begins the story of Shannon, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the YMCA, swaddled in a dirty grey sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. She is found moments later by a man who catches a mere glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. All three lives are forever changed by the single decision.

Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures neglect and abuse but then finds stability and love in the home of Miranda, a kind single mother who refuses to let anything ever go to waste. But as Shannon grows, so do the questions inside her. Where is she from? Who is her true family? Why would they abandon her on the day she was born?

The answers lie in the heartbreaking tale of Yula, Shannon's mother, a girl herself and one with a desperate fate. Yula spends her days caring for her bitter widowed father and her spirited toddler Eugene until the day she meets Harrison, a man who will protect her but also a man with a dark past and stories yet to be revealed. Soon they are expecting a daughter but as Yula goes into labour, she and Harrison are caught in a tragic series of events that will destroy their family and test their limits of compassion and sacrifice.

Eventually the two stories converge to shape an unforgettable story of family, identity and inheritance. Written with rare beauty, wisdom, and intimacy, Y is a novel that asks “why?” even as it reveals that the answer isn’t always clear and that it may not always matter.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

A foster child who has been shuffled through the system after being abandoned at the YMCA as a baby wonders about her birth family and the reasons she was given up, questions that lead to the tragic story of her flawed and desperate mother.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
2 avail.
124 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.71)
1 1
2 2
2.5 3
3 9
3.5 5
4 21
4.5 4
5 6

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,079,660 books! | Top bar: Always visible