Shelter

“He continues staring as the woman approaches, holding one hand over her breasts, and the other over her privates. Neither hand can obscure what Kyung realizes is not an optical illusion, not some crude misunderstanding of distance and light. His mother is completely naked.”

Shelter
By Jung Yung
Published: March 15, 2016
Source: Advance review copy

Kyung Cho and his wife are busy getting their house ready for a realtor’s evaluation. They live close to Kyung’s parents although their house is not on such a desirable street as theirs but they hope they’ll still be able to sell it. They have to if they want to get from behind the maxed out credit cards and feeling of not being where they should be at this point in their life.

Just as Kyung is showing the realtor their backyard his life quickly spins out of control when he sees his mother, disoriented, beaten and naked running to him. As his mother is taken to the hospital and the police are called, Kyung learns of the horrific events that his mother lived through. After this both of Kyung’s parents come to live with his small family but every moment is fraught with tension.

Growing up, Kyung didn’t have a good relationship with his father and because of his mother’s own lack of action, he sort of grew up blaming her for enduring so much and not leaving his dad. Now he has to confront his feelings about his parents while at the same time being there for them. But being a dutiful son, doesn’t mean he still can get past the hurt he felt in the past and and how he treats his parents now. At the same time, he sees his own failings as a father himself and the more time he spends with his parents, the more he feels out of control.

Gillian is the strong wife who is there for Kyung and their young son. She quickly rallies and helps Kyung’s parents and their maid move into their home but Kyung doesn’t make life easy for the family. Ultimately everyone will have to make some difficult choices if they want to move forward.

This book was at times depressing and uncomfortable. At one point it did make me cry. What is interesting is that I felt so much for most of the characters except the main character, Kyung. I wanted to shake him and tell him to go get help and salvage his relationships but I guess that is part of what makes this book so compelling. This would be a fantastic book for a book group discussion.

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