Shelterby Jung Yun
"Shelter is domestic drama at its best, a gripping narrative of secrets and revelations that seized me from beginning to end."Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The Sympathizer
One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year (Selected by Edan Lepucki)
"Shelter is domestic drama at its best, a gripping narrative of secrets and revelations that seized me from beginning to end."Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The Sympathizer
One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year (Selected by Edan Lepucki)
Now BuzzFeed's #1 Most Buzzed About Book of the Year
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Named a Best Literary Debut of the Year by Buzzfeed and a Best Book of the Year by MPR
Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and 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 neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantageprivate tutors, expensive hobbiesbut 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’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?
As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.
In her intense debut, Jung explores the powerful legacy of familial violence and the difficulty of finding the strength and grace to forgive. As the novel opens, Kyung Cho and his wife, Gillian, are on the verge of financial calamity: they are deep in debt, and selling their house in suburban Boston won’t help—their mortgage is underwater. Just when Gillian has almost convinced Kyung to swallow his pride and move in with his wealthy parents, Kyung learns that his parents have been the victims of a brutal home invasion. In an instant, Kyung must decide whether to find room in his home (and his heart) for his traumatized parents. Doing so, however, requires him to bridge the distance he’s deliberately maintained from them, to overcome the resentment he bears toward his parents for his unhappy childhood and his persistent feelings of failure. As Kyung’s situation grows increasingly unstable, he finds himself lapsing into familiar patterns of anger, distrust, and violence. Despite some lengthy asides, especially in the novel’s first half, that threaten to drown the narrative momentum in emotional reflection, a lot happens in this family drama rife with tension and unexpected ironies. Kyung’s greatest struggle, in the end, is learning how to see not only his own life but also his parents’ with clarity and understanding. (Mar.)
"In Shelter, Jung Yun takes Tolstoy’s idea that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way and packages it in the most familiar expression of the American Dream: owning a home. What the parents and children in this novel discover is that they can neither take shelter in their houses nor their families. This is domestic drama at its best, a gripping narrative of secrets and revelations that seized me from beginning to end."Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of The Sympathizer
"This absorbing, suspenseful début tracks familial obligation and the legacy of trauma... The narrative piles on surprises at a tightly controlled clip, as [Kyung's] family is forced to confront the past and the price it has paid for stability."The New Yorker
"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…Shelter is captivating.”The New York Times Book Review
"I read the greater part of Jung Yun's Shelter in a 14-hour sitting, interrupted by only five hours of sleep. I was on a trip, with other people, but I couldn't do anything until I was finished; Yun's debut may be a family drama, but it has all the tension of a thriller. It's a sharp knife of a novelpowerful and damaging, and so structurally elegant that it slides right in....it gets better and richer with every page...Like the writer's version of a no-hitter, Shelter is a marvel of skill and execution, tautly constructed and played without mercy."Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times
"Jung Yun dazzles in her haunting debut."US Weekly
“[A] harrowing hybrid of wrenching domestic drama and nail-biting crime proceduralOrdinary People meets In Cold Blood.”Passport
“[A] fearless and thrilling debut.”Town & Country
"The tension inside Kyung [is] visceral...Yun skillfully makes his unraveling feel fast-paced and urgent."Entertainment Weekly
“Yun keeps the suspense and family drama racing neck and neck... Shelter is a suspenseful, illuminating first novel.”Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com (Nine Books to Read This Month)
"The combination of grisly James Patterson thriller and melancholic suburban drama shouldn’t work at all. Yet Ms. Yun pulls it off...The proximity of Kyung's parents and the atmosphere of grief and panic launch him on a spiral of self-destruction that’s impossible to turn away from."Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“I was riveted.”Rumaan Alam, The Millions
"Yun’s powerful and tautly written novel is a brave and engrossing meditation onan adult child’s need to reckon with his past in order to be free."Min Jin Li, Asia House
"[A] thrilling debut novel...Dark and gripping, Shelter exposes the jagged edges of parent-child relationships and the sacrifices we make in the name of family."BuzzFeed, 19 Incredible Books You Need to Read This Spring
"What follows is the unfolding of a horrific and complicated crimenot to mention a horrific and complicated hidden family history."Marie Claire
"Spare and suspenseful...This post-recession novel peels back the layers of emotional damage that the financial crisis wrought....Yun offers glimpses of family secrets as if a searchlight has illuminated them briefly, [and] as the novel continues, those secrets are fully exposed."MPR News, The Best Books of the Year (So Far)
“[A] beautifully crafted, deeply moving first novel.”The Chicago Tribune
“If you want high stakes and suspense, you've found your book (I mean, just look at that cover). Jung Yun writes about family and identity and the tight bond between them especially when circumstances change in startling ways…Shelter will get your heart beating for sure.”Bustle, Most Anticipated Books of the Year
"A masterful work of literature."Electric Literature
"This troubling, moving work from Yun explores what it means to be part of a family, even if it’s nothing close to the one you might choose for yourself."DuJour, What to Read This Month
"It seems as though every year a noveland its authorappears out of nowhere and gets readers everywhere talking. This year that book is Shelter, by Korean American writer Jung Yun."South China Morning Post
“Shocking, and very poignant…This is a dark family drama that reveals layer on layer of what responsibility and duty mean, and what it looks like when they clash with an individual’s long-suppressed sense of self.”Times Literary Supplement (London)
"[Shelter] has all the tension and pace of a thriller. Replete with secrets, misunderstandings, and guilt, this is a powerful novel about what home really means."The Daily Mail (UK)
"In other hands, this material could fall apart or lose steam, but Jung Yun keeps it together through pitch-perfect, but flawed narrator Kyung and a high-tension storyline...An unexpected page-turner."The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"A searing and beautifully written novel that still haunts meI found it hard to put it down...Jung Yun elevates ordinary suffering and shame into literary art with an unflinching honesty."The International Examiner
"Yun's emotional perspicacity and tensile prose combine to turn it into something deeper than mere family melodrama..Shelter emerges as rich and multi-layered."The Toronto Star
“Poignant, spellbinding, and profound, Shelter will keep you up until the wee hours. In her brilliant debut novel, Yun skillfully untangles this snarled web of family lies, tragedy, identity, and loss. Redemption is hard-earned, and kindness comes in rare and unexpected places, but hope shimmers just beneath the surface. This is a book of heartbreaking genius.”Mira Bartók, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and bestselling author of The Memory Palace
“Jung Yun's Shelter is an urgent novel, a book so alive, contemporary, and, above all, honest, that it could only exist right now.”James Scott, bestselling author of The Kept
“Magnetic, searing, insightful, Shelter is a mic-drop of a debut: a story of post-financial crisis America that establishes Jung Yun as a necessary new voice in American fiction.”Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Like Celeste Ng’s super-lauded best seller, Everything You Never Told Me, also about a dysfunctional mixed-race family’s tragedy, [Shelter] should find itself on best-of lists, among major award nominations, and in eager readers’ hands everywhere."Library Journal (starred review)
"[Yun's] commitment to offering the world a delicately wrought but utterly unlacquered account of family dynamics is courageous...A stunning debut."The Daily Review (Australia)
"[Kyung's] 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."The Age (Australia)
“There’s more than enough to appreciate in this above-average debut. Expect great things from Jung Yun.”Bookreporter.com
“Arresting...A strikingly suspenseful debut novel, Shelter digs into the secrets and troubles of two generations in a Massachusetts Korean-American family."Shelf Awareness (starred review)
"Shelter maintains its narrative momentum right to the end...[A] valiant portrayal of contemporary American life."Kirkus Reviews
"Skilled [and] deeply disconcerting...A work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight."Booklist
“With each page, Yun takes us deeper into Kyung’s troubles…As the crime drama unfolds in the background, Yun expertly explores what it means to be an immigrant in America, the true value of tradition, the parent-child bond, what makes a good marriage, and the need for forgiveness… Yun introduces us to a man riddled with anger and self-doubt, leaving the reader to judge whether time can truly mend what’s broken.”BookPage
“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
Faced with financial crisis, college professor Kyung Cho and his wife, Gillian, are considering selling their overmortgaged home. During the initial realtor meeting, the couple discovers Kyung's mother wandering disoriented and naked beyond their backyard. Kyung misunderstands his mother's garbled Korean—the language she reverts to in shock although she's fluent in English—and concludes that she's been battered by his father again. But when he enters his parents' impeccable manse-on-the-hill seeking answers, he's shattered to find that his parents and their housekeeper are the victims of a heinous crime. As the extended Korean Irish American family attempts to reclaim their fractured lives, Kyung's decades-long suppressed rage at his abusive father and submissive mother threatens to destroy any semblance of resolution and recovery. Amid ramshackle houses and pristine abodes, finding true shelter is an elusive challenge for all. VERDICT So wowed was Picador with Yun's debut novel that hundreds of extra galleys were printed to share with colleagues. How prescient indeed, because like Celeste Ng's superlauded best seller, Everything You Never Told Me, also about a dysfunctional mixed-race family's tragedy, this work should find itself on best-of lists, among major award nominations, and in eager readers' hands everywhere. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
A fluidly written debut novel that explores violence and its effects on one immigrant family. Education, marriage, and suburban comfort can't protect second-generation Korean-American Kyung Cho from his past—or his future—in Yun's layered, sometimes surprising debut. Kyung's 4-year-old son is difficult, his job unsatisfying, his marriage strained. The family finances are disastrous. Kyung and his wife, Gillian, are finally forced to consider renting out their home and moving in with his distant and disapproving parents. But even as they chat with the real estate agent, their world is turned upside down: Mae, Kyung's mother, is walking toward the house, naked and battered. The events that follow move smoothly through time as Kyung struggles with buried traumas while desperately trying to respond to fresh ones. Yun's plotting is muscular; when another writer might have started to wind down, she offers unexpected developments, making for a sophisticated story that maintains its narrative momentum right to the end. On the other hand, Kyung's character can be frustratingly one-dimensional. Yun often anatomizes his feelings without allowing the reader emotional access, creating a distance that makes it harder to engage with him at the most difficult moments. The relationship between Kyung and Gillian and many of the parent-child relationships are rendered in a series of brief moments of disapproval, resistance, or shame. This is sometimes appropriate but so often repeated that it begins to feel like shorthand. Yun too frequently explains what would have been more effectively described, leaving the book a little flat. Yun's characters don't merely desire walls and a roof, although houses have a powerful and intelligent presence here. A diverse and nuanced cast of characters seeks shelter from pain and loneliness in this valiant portrayal of contemporary American life.
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By Jung Yun
PicadorCopyright © 2016 Jung Yun
All rights reserved.
The boy is standing in the doorway again. He's smiling, which hardly seems right. A smile means he's not sick. He didn't have a bad dream. He didn't wet the bed. None of the things he usually says when he enters the room uninvited. Kyung nudges his wife, who turns over with a grunt, face-first into her pillow. He sighs and sits up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"What's wrong?" he asks. "What's the matter?"
Ethan, still smiling, takes a step forward, holding a remote control in his outstretched palm. "Battery," he says, pronouncing the word "buttery."
"You want batteries now?"
He nods. "To watch cartoons."
The curtains in the bedroom are open. The sky outside, a pale silvery blue. It's early still. Too early to be thinking about batteries, but Kyung resists the urge to say so out loud. At this hour, he doesn't trust himself to do it nicely. He kicks off the sheets, grazing Gillian's leg as he gets out of bed.
"Five minutes," she says. "I'll be up in five."
The night-lights flicker as they make their way downstairs, past floorboards that creak and sigh under their weight. Kyung finds a dusty package of batteries that he doesn't remember buying. He swaps out the old for the new and hands the remote back to Ethan.
"You want some breakfast now?"
Ethan climbs onto the sofa and turns on the TV. "Okay," he says, flipping from one channel to the next.
The boy always agrees to eat and then doesn't. If given the choice, he'd probably subsist on a diet of grapes, popcorn, and cheese. The kitchen is down to the dregs of the week's groceries. A spotted brown banana. A cup of cereal dust. Half a cup of almost-expired milk. Not much to work with, but enough. Kyung slices the banana into the cereal with the edge of a spoon, making a face with the pieces because Ethan is more likely to eat something when it smiles. As he tosses the peel into the trash, he notices the calendar pinned to the wall. There's a circle around today's date. Inside the thick red ring is a single word that disappoints him. Gertie. Weekends are best when there's nothing to do and no one to see. A visit from Gertie is the exact opposite of nothing.
"Did your mom mention someone was coming over today?" he asks, depositing the bowl of cereal in Ethan's lap.
"She said I have to clean my room."
"I need to go talk to her for a minute. Will you be okay here by yourself?"
"Dad, shhhhh." Ethan points at the screen as a bright blue train speeds past. "I'm missing Thomas."
Upstairs, Gillian is making the bed. The realtor is coming at ten, she says, confirming what he hoped wasn't true. He wishes she'd mentioned this the night before, but he knows why she didn't. Selling the house is her idea, not his. Kyung glances at the ornate paisley comforter, the expertly arranged pillows and bolsters, piled high like a soft hill. He wants to climb back into them, to pull the sheets over his head and wake up to a day that isn't this one.
"I'm not canceling again," she says.
"I didn't ask you to."
"But I can see it on your face."
What she actually sees is surprise — surprise that Gertie would agree to another meeting with them. At his insistence, Gillian canceled their last three. It was dishonest of her to plan it this way, but he realizes he gave her no choice.
"Come on," she says, taking his hand. "We have a lot to do before she gets here."
They eat their breakfast standing up — a stack of dry toast on a paper towel. Kyung searches for something to moisten the stale bread, but finds only a thin pat of butter, flecked with crumbs, and a jar of crystallized honey. He misses the pancakes and omelets that Gillian used to make before Ethan was born, the lazy meals they shared after waking up at noon. These days, breakfast is what they consume in large, distracted bites while attending to other things. Gillian is leaning over the counter, reading him the to-do list on her computer. Sweep floors, clean up laundry room, vacuum carpets, take out trash. It seems odd to go through so much trouble for a realtor, he thinks, someone they're paying for a service. Gertie Trudeau is supposedly the best in town. She should be able to price the house whether they do these things or not.
"What about the garbage disposal?" he asks.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you think I should fix it?"
"We'll just tell her the sink's clogged. It's more important for everything to look clean."
"I think I'll try to fix it," he says, because trying is his only means of protest.
Gillian puts on her shoes and opens the door to the garage. "Fine," she says, in a tone that suggests just the opposite. "I guess I'll start with the trash, then."
Kyung has never fixed a garbage disposal before. He has only a vague idea of how it works — blades, motor, plumbing, pipes. He's not handy like some of the other men in the neighborhood, the ones with toolboxes as big as furniture, always borrowing and lending the contents as if they were books. Kyung isn't friendly enough with any of them to ask for help, although he sometimes wishes he could. The sink is half-full with foul gray dishwater — it has been for days. He's not sure what to do about it except plunge his hand into the murk. An inch shy of elbow-deep, he finally touches the bottom. There's a thick layer of grease in the chamber, solid like wax.
"Well, no wonder it's clogged," he shouts.
From the garage, a muffled "What?"
"I said 'no wonder it's clogged.'"
Gillian doesn't respond. He's about to remind her that cooking oil settles in the blades, but his wife is a selective listener. If she didn't hear him the first time, she's not likely to hear him now. He loosens the edge of something with his fingertips and removes a jagged shard of congealed fat. The air suddenly smells like rotten meat, the remains of a thousand family dinners. He feels an urge to gag that he traps with his fist and then a tug on the hem of his shirt.
"What are you doing?"
Ethan is standing behind him, still dressed in his pajamas. Around his waist is a tool belt with multicolored loops, most of which are empty. From the original set, the only pieces that remain are a bright yellow hammer and a miniature tape measure.
"I'm trying to fix the garbage disposal."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Things just break sometimes. Have you cleaned your room yet?"
"I can fix it with you." Ethan gets up on his tiptoes and bangs away on the chipped Formica.
Kyung pinches the bridge of his nose, massaging the dull rings of pain around his eyes. Every time the cheap plastic hammer hits the counter, he feels a little worse. "Stop," he says, placing his wet hand over Ethan's. "Please stop."
Although he barely raised his voice, Ethan's lower lip starts to tremble and his crusty brown eyes well with tears. Kyung doesn't understand why his son is like this, so quick to cry. He's not the source of it, and Gillian, who comes from a family of policemen, hasn't cried once in the half decade he's known her.
"It's okay," he says quietly. "But it only takes one person to fix a garbage disposal. Maybe there's something upstairs that you can fix? Or outside, with Mom?"
Kyung watches carefully, waiting for the threat of tears to pass. He's grateful when Ethan slips the hammer back into its loop and runs off to his room. The banging resumes almost immediately, still annoying and persistent, but less so with distance. He turns his attention back to the sink, throwing lumps of grease in the trash until the pileup resembles a tumor, opaque and misshapen and thick like jelly. After scraping the chamber clean, he runs hot water from the tap, hoping to see some improvement, but the water level doesn't drop. Instead, the surface shimmers with a slick, oily residue in which he catches his reflection. He looks disappointed, as he often does on weekends when a minor household task unravels into something that resembles work. He imagines the rest of his day wasted on this project — driving to the hardware store for a new tool, disassembling things that he shouldn't, searching the Internet for a clue. Nothing in his house works anymore, which is part of the problem.
By the time the realtor arrives, Kyung has completed exactly zero tasks on the to-do list. The garbage disposal, still broken, might even count as minus one. He watches from the window as Gertie rolls up in a silver Mercedes, sleek and recently washed. She parks in the driveway and surveys the lawn before ringing the bell, wrinkling her nose at the weedy flower beds. She looks different from her photographs, the ones posted on every other bus and billboard in town. Older, he thinks, and heavier too. When he greets her in the foyer, he notices that her teeth have been whitened, and she's wearing diamond solitaires the size of erasers on her ring finger, in her ears, and around her neck. He distrusts her immediately, the way she screams sales.
"Pleased to meet you," she says, shaking his hand as if pumping water from a well. "I'm glad we could finally make this happen."
Gillian and Ethan join them in the foyer. They've both changed clothes. A pair of blue denim shorts and a button-down shirt for him. A yellow sundress for her, dotted with orange flowers. Kyung is still wearing the T-shirt and shorts he slept in. His feet are callused and bare, outlined with dirt from the sandals he wore the day before.
"Now, who is this precious little boy?" Gertie asks.
Ethan steps backward, hiding behind Gillian's leg.
"Say hello to Mrs. Trudeau," Kyung says.
Ethan extends his small hand to her, which she takes between her thumb and forefinger.
"How old are you?" she asks.
"Four," he whispers, retreating behind Gillian again. She makes no effort to stop him, which they've discussed in the past. The boy is shy because they coddle him.
"What a gorgeous child," Gertie says agreeably. "Biracial children are always so beautiful. The best of both parents, I think. You two are what? Chinese and Irish?"
"Korean," he corrects.
Gertie quickly depletes her reserves of small talk and asks for a tour, which they start in the living room. Gillian takes the lead and tries to point out the nicer features of the house, describing even the smallest things too cheerfully, as if the person she needs to convince is herself. Kyung brings up the rear, occasionally stealing a peek over Gertie's shoulder as she jots down notes in a leather-bound legal pad. The brick fireplace in the living room receives a check-plus, along with the bay window, the wood floors, and the size of the adjoining dining room. The kitchen appliances, the worn carpets on the second floor, and the water stains in the bathroom all receive a check-minus. Pantry and garage, check-plus. Wet basement and old boiler, check-minus. He isn't insulted so much as impressed by the skill and speed with which she catalogs the good and bad. Gertie sees dollars, not disappointment, which is exactly what he needs right now.
After the tour, they sit down at the kitchen table while Gertie removes a manila folder from her briefcase. The label on the tab reads MCFADDEN — Gillian's last name, not his.
"I pulled up some sales data on comparable houses in the neighborhood." She flips through a few sheets of paper, frowning as if she left something behind at the office. "Of course, you know the market's down right now."
Under the table, Gillian taps nervously on Kyung's leg. Get to the point, he thinks. Get to the point already.
"I'd say your biggest selling point is the neighborhood. The taxes are a little high here, but you're in an excellent school district, and the commute to Boston is pretty reasonable. As for the house ..."
He wants to cut her off and tell her about their plans. They had so many of them — a new kitchen, a sunroom, replacement windows, and a deck — but what does it matter now? It's obvious they couldn't afford to do any of it. That's the hesitation he hears in her voice.
"... the house could use a fair amount of remodeling. And that boiler will have to be replaced soon, which won't be cheap. Ah, here it is." Gertie pulls out a piece of paper from the bottom of the stack and adjusts her reading glasses. "I'd probably suggest a list price of three hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars. Maybe you could go as high as three ninety if you're not in a hurry to move, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend that route."
It doesn't matter what she would or wouldn't recommend. Even the higher price is less than what they hoped for, less than what they owe. Kyung forgets himself for a moment and rests his forehead in his hands. This is exactly why he put off the meeting for so long.
"I'm sorry. Is that not what you expected to hear?"
He can't quite bring himself to answer the question. Although he knew Gertie wouldn't be able to save them, at the very least, he thought she might throw them a rope.
Gillian sends Ethan into the living room and tells him to turn on the TV. "Can we be completely honest with you?" she asks.
"If you expect me to sell your house, you shouldn't be anything but."
"Well" — she picks at a line of dirt under her nail — "we're kind of embarrassed about this, but you might as well know ... my husband and I refinanced at the height of the market and took cash out against our mortgage, so we actually owe the bank about four hundred and eighty thousand for this place."
The books and Web sites that Gillian always asks him to read refer to this state as "underwater" or "upside down" — terms he actively dislikes. It's bad enough that everything in the house keeps breaking. He doesn't need to imagine himself drowning too.
"So it's a short sale," Gertie says. Her expression gives away nothing. "They're much more common these days. The trick is getting your bank to take a loss on the difference between what you owe them and what you can sell for."
Her matter-of-fact tone should encourage him, but it doesn't. He already knows their bank won't agree to a loss unless they fall behind on their payments. By some sort of miracle, they haven't yet, although they're behind on everything else. Gertie fails to mention that a short sale would be disastrous to their credit rating, almost as bad as a foreclosure. No one would be willing to lend to them for years. Kyung can't stand the idea of being reduced to a renter at his age, asking a landlord for permission to paint a room or hang up some shelves. He was raised to believe that owning a home meant something. Losing a home like this — that would mean something too.
"An alternative to selling now is renting this place out until the market picks back up. You could easily get twenty-five hundred a month, maybe even as much as three thousand." Gertie turns to him. "Would you have somewhere else to go if I found you a good tenant? I actually know of a couple. They're relocating to the area and want to get acclimated for a year before they buy."
They do have a place to go, a place that makes sense financially, but it would wreck him to exercise the option, to explain why he had to. His parents live three miles away, just past the conservation land that separates their neighborhood from his own. As Gillian keeps pointing out, they have plenty of space, they could live there rent-free, and it's what his parents wanted all along — to spend more time with their grandson. He just can't imagine living any closer to them than he already does.
"Kyung's parents own a six-bedroom up the hill," Gillian says.
"Marlboro Heights." Gertie is impressed. "Well, this will be perfect, then. I'll call my clients and schedule a showing the next time they're in town."
The conversation is moving ahead without him. Kyung hasn't even committed to the idea of renting yet, and already, Gertie and Gillian are making plans.
"How do you know these people will even want to rent our house? What if they don't like it?"
"What's not to like?" Gertie stands up and walks to the kitchen window. "Second to Marlboro Heights, this is the best neighborhood in town. And look at this view. Trees as far as the eye can see."
Their backyard abuts twenty-six acres of pine and spruce. The locals on both sides of the conservation land refer to it as the "green wall." It was the feature Gillian fell in love with when they first started house hunting, that sense of being surrounded. The three-bedroom colonial was at the top of their price range, but he could tell how much she wanted it, and he wanted it for her. Now their decision is ruining them. He shakes his head and glances at Gertie, who hasn't said a word since she turned toward the window. Her eyebrows are angled sharply into a frown, and her mouth is open as if she means to speak, but can't.
Excerpted from Shelter by Jung Yun. Copyright © 2016 Jung Yun. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
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Meet the Author
JUNG YUN was born in South Korea, grew up in North Dakota, and educated at Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her work has appeared in Tin House (the “Emerging Voices” issue); The Best of Tin House: Stories, edited by Dorothy Allison; and The Massachusetts Review; and she is the recipient of two Artist Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Baltimore with her husband and serves as an Assistant Professor of English at the George Washington University.
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I would rate this a 4.5. Not an easy book to read due to the subject matter, but so well written but also so powerful, gripping and jarring it was hard to put down. This is a book about a Korean family who immigrated to the United States and how all were impacted by a horrific crime. But more than that, the author Jung Yun, successfully weaves together so many themes, including cultural and generational differences, racism, family turmoil and dysfunction, assimilation and others. The characters also were very well developed. An excellent debut novel.