Shelter from the Storm

Shelter

By Jung Yun

Published 2016

Read Oct 2017

The Characters:

  • A mid-thirties couple with student loans, credit card debt, and their house financially “under-water”. He’s a biology professor who immigrated to the US from Korea with his parents when he was four years old.  She is the daughter of a local Irish cop and is staying home with their four-year son, old until he goes to school, and studying for a master’s degree in the meantime.
  • His parents who live nearby in a more exclusive house and are wealthy from his patents. He was born in Korea but received his PhD in the US and is a successful engineering professor at the same college as his son.  She has never worked outside the house but has spent much time and money decorating their home.

The Situation:

  • The son and wife decide they must sell their house to begin dealing with their debt. They are considering staying with his parents while they rent it in the interim.
  • The son has spent much effort keeping his parents out of his own family’s life but also has chosen to stay in his hometown to be near them.
  • His mother is found wandering naked in the green space between their housing development and his parents.
  • The parents have suffered a home invasion during which the wife and their housekeeper have been brutally raped and the father has been severely beaten.
  • The parents are unable to stay at their home for some time and need to stay with their son and family.

Yun tells a story of personal disappointment, family obligations, racial discrimination, parenting, cross-cultural marriage, domestic abuse, debt, and more using a violent crime to drive the characters to confront these issues.  The reader is privy to the son’s thoughts and feelings and his interpretations of the other characters’ thoughts and actions.  Yun rapidly engages our sympathy for all of these characters and we hope the situation can draw the family together while we simultaneously understand that’s not going to be simple to accomplish.  We cringe at the some of the decisions the son makes which will further complicate his life while we see they aren’t totally surprising, especially considering the horrific event with which he and his family are trying to cope and the family’s past which they have buried.

The author effectively drives the reader, as well as the family members, to confront the issues he raises.  As the novel progresses we begin to recognize that his themes are actually universal that we all must address.  That is the magic of this novel.

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