Erika's Reviews > Shelter

Shelter by Jung Yun
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really liked it
bookshelves: books-read-in-2016

I picked up Shelter after reading a few of the reviews here, and I’m so glad I listened to my GR’s friends! What a rare book!

On the surface, Kyung Cho has a pretty good life. Sure he’s deeply in debt and his marriage isn’t perfect, but he has a decent job at a liberal arts college, a nice son, and two parents who clearly want to be closer to him. Yet Kyung is distant from everyone around him. He lives in a constant state of watchfulness and low-level anxiety, never sharing his feelings or experiencing real human connection.

Then his parents are violently attacked, and Kyung is forced to let them stay at his home to recover. Once the family is under one roof, we begin to see how Kyung’s father and mother crippled him in different ways as a child. Over time, it's clear that he can’t really function as a parent, husband, or even an employee.

To say this is a novel about the effects of child abuse would be accurate, but also hopelessly simplistic. It’s about terrible suffering and the things we do to compensate for it. It’s about being the son of Korean immigrants in America and how the two cultures are often in conflict when they live inside the same person. And it’s about obligation—what exactly do we owe our parents and our children?

The writing in Shelter is unadorned, almost like a police report, and this adds to the feel of Kyung’s detachment. Yet it’s intensely, addictively, readable, so much so that I pretty much did nothing else but immerse myself in it for two days.

I subtracted a star for some melodramatic business at the end that didn’t seem organic to the plot, but other than that, this is a truly excellent novel.
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Reading Progress

June 26, 2016 – Shelved (Hardcover Edition)
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read (Hardcover Edition)
July 30, 2016 – Started Reading
July 30, 2016 – Shelved
August 30, 2016 – Shelved as: books-read-in-2016
August 30, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Bianca (new) - added it

Bianca Great review. I hope I get to read it.


Margitte Sounds like a great book!. Thanks for the introduction!


message 3: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Thanks! I really think that both of you would like it, although it's very intense. I listened to the audio version which was excellent.


message 4: by Katie (new)

Katie Glad you loved Fates and Furies, Erika!


Julie Ehlers The writing in Shelter is unadorned, almost like a police report, and this adds to the feel of Kyung’s detachment. Yet it’s intensely, addictively, readable, so much so that I pretty much did nothing else but immerse myself in it for two days.

I definitely agree with this--there was something so addictive and absorbing about the writing. Great review, Erika. I'm glad you liked it!


Carol Excellent review, Erika. I've just downloaded this audio also. One GR friend compared it to House of Sand and Fog, which was another favorite of mine.


Jenna Great review! Nothing has made me happier than to see so many GR friends appreciating this book as I did. I was hesitant to pick it up first too, but the book seems to be winning people over one by one!


message 8: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Katie wrote: "Glad you loved Fates and Furies, Erika!"

Thanks! I would have given it 6 stars if I could. I loved the ambition and audacity of the writing. In looking at our books, I see our taste is very similar! Anything you're reading that you think I'd like?


message 9: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Julie wrote: "The writing in Shelter is unadorned, almost like a police report, and this adds to the feel of Kyung’s detachment. Yet it’s intensely, addictively, readable, so much so that I pretty much did nothi..."

Thanks! Your review was great on this one! It's not easy to describe why it's so powerful.


message 10: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Jenna wrote: "Great review! Nothing has made me happier than to see so many GR friends appreciating this book as I did. I was hesitant to pick it up first too, but the book seems to be winning people over one by..."

Thanks much, and I agree! Let's hope the trend continues.


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