“My life begins at the Y…” so starts Shannon’s story, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the local YMCA. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon longs to uncover her roots. Where is she from? Who is her mother? And why would she abandon Shannon on the day she was born?
The answers lie in the heartbreaking tale of her mother’s family, and their flawed and desperate fate. Through Marjorie Celona’s intimate observations and quirky wit, present and past converge to shape a unique and lasting story of identity and inheritance. A novel that asks us to consider the “why” of our lives, even as it reveals that the answer isn’t always clear.
This story was incredibly sad. Not in a cry-your-eyes-out way, though. We meet Shannon as she’s being dropped off on the front step of the YMCA in Victoria, BC. We follow her growing up, being transferred from home to home, until she is adopted by Miranda. But it’s not all roses from there, she struggles to fit in with other kids and with her sister, Lydia-Rose (Miranda’s natural daughter). She acts out and things start to fall apart for her when she’s 16.
Interspersed in there is the story of her parents and her birth. It’s told with Shannon’s voice, but in an omniscient way, which is a little weird at first, but I got used to it. Her parents story was the saddest part of the book, I think.
It’s definitely not a feel-good book, but not sad enough to make me grab the tissues, it’s more sad in a “this poor little girl, look at how hard her life is” way. It was an interesting book, a good read, but not *quite* there for me. I found it a little hard to feel sorry for Shannon at times when trouble found her because she was acting like a brat…then I’d think, of course she’s a brat, think of all she’s been through. But I couldn’t quite connect.
It’s hard to place this book in the real world, even though I *know* that it’s real. There’s drugs, sex, booze, homelessness…but it’s so far from what society likes to think about, likes to pretend life is like that it’s hard to reconcile the two worlds (the pretend world we like to live in, and the real world we DO live in). As I was reading, I thought “that doesn’t happen in Canada”, but I know it does – I *knew* kids like this growing up, I was friends with them.
I think this book will be one that I need to let sink in for a little while. It’s definitely worth the read for the story alone, just don’t expect miracles…it’s a harsh, realistic look at an underprivileged life.
My Rating: 4 stars