Memories come alive


“…It’s hard to be happy when you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.”


Jung Yun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She studied at Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing. She has also received two Artist’s Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an honourable mention for the Pushcart Prize. Shelter is her first novel.
Kyung Cho is a young father and promising academic who is almost bankrupt due to poor financial management. His Korean immigrant parents, Jin and Mae, have done quite well for themselves and Kyung has kept them at arm’s length from his American-born wife and son due to resentments. One violent day, everything becomes different. He does not have a choice but to accommodate his parents in their home.
Jung Yun, a newbie in novel writing, has tackled one important familial issue that is domestic violence. It is such a painful issue to discuss for it involves family members. She was able to scrutinise her characters’ grief with deepness and complexity. Grief is found in every leaf of her masterpiece. Finding solutions to the situation of the Cho family is a difficult thing to conceive knowing all the struggles that they have been through.
Kyung is a representation of the scars that children who flourish in abusive homes convey throughout life. The upbringing he had with his traditional Korean parents made him avoid and fume quietly. He, as an adult, begrudges his parents strongly for the trauma that continues to stick with him and to liberate himself for all of his disappointments in life such as his fierce wraths, his fruitless job as an educator, his weak funds, his over drinking, and his shortcomings as a husband and father. After the violent acts his parents had experienced, his heart is about to burst, for he is filled with bad memories and a fury that he can no longer control. It is like the memories of the past have come out of his mind. He cannot move on for he blames the past; thus, he becomes cruel and spiteful.
“…It’s hard to be happy when you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.”
There is some graphic violence that might disappoint some readers. Although the author spent sufficient time developing the story and characters, she implausibly ended it. Despite the flaws, the novel has a universal significance and appeal. Finding forgiveness even though difficult is a must to find a shelter in one’s heart so he/she can live peacefully and harmoniously.