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Saturday, November 5, 2016
SHELTER, my General Fiction vote for the Goodreads Choice Awards
$26.00 hardcover, available now
Rating: 3.5* of five
The Publisher Says: 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 advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—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’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?
My Review: I voted for this in the 2016 Goodreads choice awards because it was the most interesting novel I'd read among the choices. It wasn't an easy read. I disliked everyone except Ethan Cho, the four-year-old, and given time I'm sure I'd've disliked him too.
What price family? I didn't have a close or happy family. My own parents weren't like the Chos, they were chaotic rather than cruel and cold. But what made the book interesting for me is the way Kyung tries to stop the vicious cycle of chill and distance, and fails again and again. His wife is just as guilty of emotional dysfunction as he is.
When this screwed-up couple is, in simple human decency, required to house the traumatized parents after their luxurious and hollow world cracks wide open, the fun truly begins. Think the set-up's dark? Wait until the parents move in!
The ending is a raggedy-looking bow tied on the fanny of the story which I didn't for one second believe came from any strand in the story itself. I'd still suggest reading it.