Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wine glass. The question we ask over and over. Why?

My life begins at the Y.

So begins the story of Shannon, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the YMCA, swaddled in a dirty grey sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. She is found moments later by a man who catches a mere glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. All three lives are forever changed by the single decision. 

Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures neglect and abuse but then finds stability and love in the home of Miranda, a kind single mother who refuses to let anything ever go to waste. But as Shannon grows, so do the questions inside her. Where is she from? Who is her true family? Why would they abandon her on the day she was born?

The answers lie in the heartbreaking tale of Yula, Shannon's mother, a girl herself and one with a desperate fate. Yula spends her days caring for her bitter widowed father and her spirited toddler Eugene until the day she meets Harrison, a man who will protect her but also a man with a dark past and stories yet to be revealed. Soon they are expecting a daughter but as Yula goes into labour, she and Harrison are caught in a tragic series of events that will destroy their family and test their limits of compassion and sacrifice.

Eventually the two stories converge to shape an unforgettable story of family, identity and inheritance. Written with rare beauty, wisdom, and intimacy, Y is a novel that asks "why?" even as it reveals that the answer isn't always clear and that it may not always matter.

Publisher: Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, c2012.
ISBN: 9780670066377
Characteristics: 350 p. ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 05, 2019

I found it really tedious to read the never-ending litany of complaints and snarky, snide remarks made by Shannon, made more problematic because she was also the narrator. This character literally went out of her way to find something to complain about. And, although the author tried to pretend it made the character complex, really Shannon just came across as shallow and one dimensional. This was a slog of a read and I was glad to be able to return it to the library (though feel sorry for the next person who signs it out).

Oct 05, 2014

The titular Y can relate to at least three elements in the novel. The obvious... short for YWCA, where the baby Shannon was left by her mother shortly after birth. Then, Y is the initial of the mysterious mother Yula, for whom Shannon so desperately searches. And phonetically, WHY?, is the all-encompassing question for Shannon - what happened that made her mother give her up? The story bounces between the lives of Shannon and her mother in an attempt to answer this question. And as Shannon searches we see how she grows into her potential. A hopeful tale of lives lived in places we never hope to find ourselves or the people we love.

Nov 05, 2013

Shannon has a lot of whys in her life, but all the whys are what she wants to know. Left infront of the Y(MCA), she has a unique beginning and she finds family in people who are not related to her, but she is thankful for them regardless what is going on with her. Follow Shannon's mother/father's story, as well, as you get to know Shannon with all her faults and quirks as she gets to know herself along the journey.

sundaysunday123 Mar 19, 2013

Easy, fast read --- references throughout to places and various recognizable locations around Victoria make this book thoroughly enjoyable. Not often you get a book that is "so close to home."

Dec 27, 2012

A very engaging read.

LaughingOne Dec 06, 2012

This book is actually two stories, one of the birth family of this baby girl and how she came to be abandoned, the other the story of the girl over a period of 16-17 years. Both stories are told by the girl, from her perspective. What was especially interesting to me was seeing/living the girl's life from inside her. We don't normally get to see what another person is thinking, especially in situations like this. All of the characters are flawed; however, it is obvious that most of them are doing the best they can in an imperfect world. Thought-provoking and hopeful are words I would use to describe this novel, despite the unbearable things that happen in it.

Nov 19, 2012

Anh excellent first book. Despite the fact that Shannon was an abandoned child always looking for her real identity, it reflects how many people live in the same way. And, finally, looking back, realize that their life was good.

rowanquincy Nov 06, 2012

Doesn't live up to the hype. Suspect it is so popular due the the many Victoria mentions.

debwalker Oct 12, 2012

Stunning debut novel on the Giller long list.

Oct 04, 2012

Loved this book for the fact that it made me feel both deeply upset and also giggle aloud. What constitutes a family; is it blood or is it something much, much larger? This is a story burning with truth that is so often untold. Fiction with thought.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top