Book Review

SHELTER by Jung Yun

Rating: 5/5

SHELTER by Jung Yun made it onto my radar when I was going back through old episodes of the Reading Women podcast and learned that this book was chosen for their 2016 Reading Women Award for fiction. Now that the podcast is celebrating its third birthday, it seemed a good time to finally pick up this book.

Trigger warnings: sexual assault, domestic violence.

SHELTER begins with Kyung Cho, a man who is struggling in life. Kyung is married to Gillian and together they have a son. While it seems they have everything, behind the scenes they have piled up debt to the point where they can’t even afford to sell their house. Kyung can’t imagine seeking help from his parents who live nearby, but it seems they are lacking other options. 

While Kyung and Gillian discuss their housing options with their realtor, Kyung’s mother is spotted coming across the field behind the house, naked, severely injured and clearly traumatized. From here, the story explores what exactly happened to Mae and her husband as well as Kyung’s history with his parents and the reasons behind their difficult relationship. 

Kyung isn’t always a likable character as our POV for this story, but as the story progresses the reader begins to understand some of the barriers between him and his family. Kyung’s family immigrated to America from Korea when he was young and the reader is given glimpses of the family’s struggle to assimilate. Kyung feels that his wife Gillian’s Irish family hasn’t accepted their marriage and he struggles to convey to Gillian how to be a proper Korean daughter-in-law.

The book is in parts both a literary thriller and a family drama, bringing some twists that I did not see coming. This was an excellent book to kick off June for me, keeping me engaged and flipping pages all the way through the end. I definitely would want to read more from Jung Yun! 

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