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". . . voluminous details that clutter rather than clarify the tale."
Marjorie Celona’s uniquely titled debut novel, y, portrays the harsh reality of an abandoned child horrifically abused by foster parents. The child launches a desperate search to understand why her mother dropped her off hours after she was born in front of the YWCA (hence the title) wrapped in a sweatshirt.
Celona’s haunting protagonist shares similarities with Alice Sebold’s bestseller, The Lovely Bones, about a young girl raped and murdered, who bizarrely narrates her own experience from the grave. Likewise, Celona’s narrator chronicles events before her birth, and as a baby. The morning “Shannon” is found at the “y,” she notes: “There is nothing but a Swiss Army Knife folded up beneath my feet. My head is the size of a Yukon Gold potato. The man pauses.”
Shannon, subsequently given various names by different foster parents, observes money can be earned by taking in children. Unloved and abused, she recalls when a social worker rushes her out of a foster home with “my little arm in the bright blue cast …” She eventually moves in with Miranda, a single parent who wants her natural daughter to have a sister, but Shannon is unable to accept her honest affection. Ultimately Shannon flees, searching until she uncovers who rescued her that morning at the YWCA.
Celona’s drama amplifies childhood anguish, and when you toss in her mother’s life laced with misfortunate, drugs and death, you have a powerful story. Celona’s writing is crisp, but she gets carried away with inserting voluminous details that clutter rather than clarify the tale.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla