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Magwood on Books

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Reviewed: Y by Marjorie Celona, Faber & Faber

YFrom remote, rainy Canada comes this compassionate story of an infant abandoned outside the Vancouver YMCA. The baby grows up as Shannon, who is fostered in fits and starts until she settles down with single mother Miranda and her daughter Lydia-Rose. Despite Miranda’s steady commitment she is a difficult child who tacks perilously close to delinquency, but from the outset the reader cares deeply for her. Her lazy eye hints at damage both spiritual and physical, but she has the fortitude of a survivor.

At 16, Shannon is determined to trace her parents, a near-impossible task considering she had been left on the YMCA step, wrapped in a dirty sweatshirt and with a Swiss army knife the only clue to her identity. And so Celona casts backwards and forwards across Shannon’s troubled life, quietly building up the devastating story of how a young mother came to abandon her hours-old child.

It is a story characterised by damaged, marginal people, by bad choices, by chances not taken. But there is redemption here, too, as we examine the tangled lines of belonging and identity, of family and fate. It is a memorable novel, from one of Canada’s brightest young talents.

A good Book Club choice.

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