Select one of the keywords
Shelter    by Jung Yun order for
by Jung Yun
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2017 (2016)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Shelter by Jung Yun is very different take on how a mixed-race family faces their problems. And what they do about them. Do they even admit there are problems?

Kyung Cho, is a South Korean who fled with his mother and father to the United States to eventually become a college professor. He suffered the cruelty of his classmates who constantly teased and berated him for being different. He had to endure that as well as listening to his father beating his mother for the least little infraction. To top it off, his father showed him no affection or attention whatsoever. He tried to get his mother to leave his father, to no avail.

One horrific day, his mother was found roaming outside, completely naked and begging for help. There had been a home invasion and she and her maid had been beaten, tortured, and repeatedly raped! The Korean community rallied around, much to Kyung's displeasure.

Things between the parents come to a head and Kyung, too late, learns of his mother's plans. Communications between Kyung and his American wife are pained at best. She reaches the breaking point because of an inexcusable act by Kyung, which is the last straw. I was in awe of her forbearance and her obvious love for Kyung.

Their finances are severely stretched. Their mortgaged home will have to be sold as they can no longer keep up payments. Their credit cards are all maxed to the limits. Kyung's father, a wealthy business man could write them a check, but Kyung couldn't bear his father's blistering scorn if he learned of Kyung's plight.

Shelter introduces us to the family and then lets us listen in as they accost each other for different transgressions. This reader feels sorry for Kyung but it seems that he brings on his own downfall. This is a very poignant story. Fiction but a tale that could very well be playing out in your own home town, behind closed doors. This debut novel is well-written.

2nd Review by Barbara Lingens:

Jung Yun has written about a dysfunctional family and a crime committed against that family. This is a harrowing read, but it's a page turner as well. On the one hand, I almost couldn't stand to read all the bad things that happened, but I also couldn't put the book down.

Kyung and Gillian are a young couple living on the edge - their home is under water because of their large loans; their credit cards are maxed out; and it looks like the day of reckoning is approaching. Kyung will not ask his wealthy parents, who live close by, for help. Then a horrific thing happens to his parents, and everything changes. From hardly ever seeing each other, the two families must now live together. This causes Kyung to have to face what happened in the past, and it isn't easy.

Jung Yun has imagined a very hurtful scenario, which could be more believable if we were able to know more about Kyung's parents. Seeing them only through his eyes limits us, especially since much of the explanation about them comes only at the end. In general, the characters are not well developed so we have very little to go on.

The plot just kind of runs out at the end, and we are left wondering whether Kyung, who has been so traumatized in his younger years, will find the will or the strength to overcome the new set of traumas depicted in this book. This is not a happy read, yet it is gripping.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews