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You never know what goes on behind closed doors.
Kyung Cho owns a house that he can't afford. Despite his promising career as a tenure-track professor, he and his wife, Gillian, have always lived beyond their means. Now their bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family's future.
A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town's most exclusive neighbourhood. Growing up, they gave Kyung every possible advantage - expensive hobbies, private tutors - but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he decides to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves under the same roof where tensions quickly mount and old resentments rise to the surface.
As Shelter veers swiftly towards its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. In the tradition of House of Sand and Fog and The Ice Storm, Shelter is a masterfully crafted first novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Gripping ... Yun shows how, although shelter doesn't guarantee safety and blood doesn't guarantee love, there's something inextricable about the relationship between a child and a parent ... We may each respond in our own way, but I'll go ahead and assume that a good amount of folks, regardless of the pain they may have experienced from bad mothers and fathers, and regardless of cultural traditions, will feel the pull to help save their parents. "Shelter" is captivating in chronicling this story. New York Times Yun's debut may be a family drama, but it has all the tension of a thriller. It's a sharp knife of a novel - powerful and damaging, and so structurally elegant that it slides right in ... Yun has written the rare novel that starts with a strong premise and gets better and richer with every page, each scene perfectly selected, building on the last. The language, at first blush plain and functional, reveals itself as the right medium for a story of unusual urgency - not simple but bony, spare and precise ... Shelter is a marvel of skill and execution, tautly constructed and played without mercy. Los Angeles Times A fluidly written debut novel that explores violence and its effects on one immigrant family ... [A] layered, sometimes surprising debut ... A diverse and nuanced cast of characters seeks shelter from pain and loneliness in this valiant portrayal of contemporary American life. Kirkus Reviews The combination of grisly James Patterson thriller and melancholic suburban drama shouldn't work at all. Yet Ms. Yun pulls it off. Kyung is petulant and unlikeable, but he's also psychologically unstable. The proximity of his parents and the atmosphere of grief and panic launch him on a spiral of self-destruction that's impossible to turn away from. The novel grows darker and darker, until all its internal contradictions are eclipsed by an ending as disturbing and bereft as anything you'll read this year. Wall Street Journal This work should find itself on best-of lists, among major award nominations, and in eager readers' hands everywhere. Library Journal, Starred Review In her intense debut, Yun explores the powerful legacy of familial violence and the difficulty of finding the strength and grace to forgive ... This family drama [is] rife with tension and unexpected ironies. Publishers Weekly Jung Yun keeps it together through pitch-perfect but flawed narrator Kyung and a high-tension storyline. Such a thoughtful, emotional literary work is an unexpected page-turner. Globe and Mail A powerful debut, full of thrills, secrets waiting to be discovered, and lies unwrapped Los Angeles Review of Books It seems as though every year a novel - and its author - appears out of nowhere and gets readers everywhere talking. This year that book is Shelter, by Korean American writer Jung Yun. South China Morning Post A history of violence lurks behind the walls of the Korean-American family in Jung Yun's Shelter. Kyung Cho is a biology professor who lives in the suburbs with his wife Gillian and young child. Haunted by spiralling debt, the family risks losing their house. Meanwhile his ageing parents are rich beyond anything their son could hope for, but they cared more about money than love, and Kyung grew up desperately unhappy. When Kyung's mother turns up naked and battered in the backyard, and his parents are no longer able to live on their own, he reluctantly takes them in. The reversal of fortune leads to dramatic and surprising revelations, dissecting questions of familial duty, betrayal and forgiveness. Jung Yun's Shelter weaves an intricately plotted intergenerational drama, delivered in cool spare prose. Sydney Morning Herald This stunning literary novel is a page turner about family, belonging and making commitments you can live by Reader's Digest