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Shelter: A Novel by Jung Yun
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Shelter: A Novel

by Jung Yun

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3172157,717 (3.81)15
"Kyung Cho's home is worth less money than he owes. A tenure-track professor, he and his wife, Gillian, have always lived beyond their means. Now their decisions have caught up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family's future: all he wants is to provide the home that was denied him to their son. Not that he ever wanted for pleasing things -- his father moved the family from Korea, and made good money engineering patents for the university that now employs his son. Kyung was raised in the town's most affluent neighborhood, in the exquisite house where his parents, Jin and Mae, still live, but his childhood was far from comfortable. Jin was always swift to anger, and whenever he took a hand to Mae, she would inflict the wounds she suffered on Kyung. With the support of his parents' pastor, Kyung brought the cycle to a halt, but he cannot bear the thought of asking them for help. Yet when Jin and Mae become victims of a violent home invasion, the dynamic suddenly changes, and Kyung is compelled to take them in. As the carefully established distance between Kyung and his parents collapses, he must reckon with his childhood, even as the life that he has built begins to crumble. As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun's debut novel leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Taut and masterfully told, it as riveting as it is profound"--… (more)

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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Do not read this book if you have commitments the next day. Do not read this book if you are on the bus ride to work. Once you start, you won't be able to stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Yun's darkly domestic, disturbing prose will pull you down a rabbit hole you won't want to go down, but it's too late now and you should've seen her warnings earlier.

Shelter centres around a young Korean-American father, Kyung, who's living beyond his means in a house he can't afford. The story begins with Kyung's mother, Mae coming into his backyard, naked, injured and crying in Korean. Very soon after, Kyung's parents come to live with him and all of their tumultuous past comes to the surface like oil rising to the surface of water. The only thing holding the oil in place is the tension in the water.

Yun is a master innovator of the darkly disturbing domesticity I've been craving since I read The Vegetarian by Han Kang. What I appreciate about Yun's writing is that she somehow makes the domestic situation more unsettling than the actual crime that's committed in the opening pages of the book. Her rendition of Korean family dynamics -- the expectations, the social obligations, the mental and emotional strain of a family who never truly communicates because they never learned how -- is something I doubt I'll ever read again.

Then, somehow, the energy changes, Yun adds to the tension, layer by layer, crafting each character with care as someone might chip away at marble, with precision. Kyung is a wonderfully complex character with muddied motivations and emotional reactions that make him feel tangible. Kyung's upset about something and makes a move to apologise, but instead of apologising, he blames the person he meant to apologise to. All at once, I sided with him, I understood and then I went straight back to disliking him.

Then, somewhere in the last 100 pages, the delicate dominos Jung Yun has lined up all begin to fall. One by one, gaining momentum as they had for the centre. I'm still reeling from the conclusion, in fact, I'm not sure I'll ever get over it. I wish I could talk about it. I wish I could disclose it all, but to do that would be to dishonour this book, and I don't want to do that.

I should warn you, if you are at all sensitive to domestic violence, I would give this book a miss. It is an overarching theme in this book and reappears frequently, each time often more intense than the last.

I feel conflicted, like Kyung. I want everyone to read it, but I don't want anyone feeling the way I feel after I read it. But I need someone to talk to about it.

So it goes. ( )
  lydia1879 | Feb 1, 2020 |
Tragic. Emotionally complex. Brutal.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Dec 29, 2019 |
I should have applied the 50 page rule to this book, and set it aside. But, I plodded along, and still it did not get better. This is a story of a deeply troubled son who has an incredibly dysfunctional relationship with his abusive father. Throughout his young life, he watched his wealthy father beat his mother. His mother in turn too her hurt and angry out on her son.

When his parent's house is invaded and his mother is beaten and raped, the parents leave their opulent home to come and stay with their son and his wife. This is a recipe for disaster.

The ending wasn't understandable given the context of the book, and it felt rushed.

One Star ( )
  Whisper1 | Sep 28, 2019 |
Interesting character study marred by melodrama and some unbelievable plot twists. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Compelling writing but none of the characters are sympathetic. The book opens with a brutal crime. An elderly Korean couple, Jin and Mae Cho, are attacked along with their housekeeper, Marina. The Cho's son, Kyung, lives with his wife Gillian and son Ethan not far from his parents and the rest of the book examines the wounds the awful crime opens. 
 
It is not a pleasant read. Although Yun's writing was compelling to make me want to know what happened, none of the characters are particularly likeable. His father physically abused his mother, who can be manipulative and vindictive. Kyung and Gillian are living beyond their means and their finances are strained. Perhaps the only truly sympathetic and likeable character in this book is Ethan, but he's a child and a minor character.
 
While there's nothing wrong with a dark read (and I'll admit that maybe I wasn't in the mood for this book), it was a tough, aside from the rape, violence, abuse, suicide, murder etc. that went on. Characters don't have to be perfect and I don't have to like them, but if the author doesn't somehow get me to invest in at least one of the major characters then it's usually a tough sell.
 
The very end is also quite bizarre. Although the book is also really on a bit of a downward spiral from the opening, the conclusion is strange. Some other reviewers found it slightly hopeful, others thought it was ridiculous. I'm of the latter camp. It's unclear to me as to what we were supposed to get out of this as readers.
 
I think I'll keep an eye on the author's next book but I wouldn't recommend this unless you're into dark reads and you're snowed in or something. Borrow from the library. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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No man may step in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man. --HERACLITUS
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To my husband, Joel, who changed everything
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The boy is standing in the doorway again.
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