Jung Yun's Shelter is an arresting first novel about 36-year-old biology professor Kyung Cho, his wife, Gillian, and their four-year-old son, Ethan. Their suburban Massachusetts middle-class life and marriage are on edge, with an underwater mortgage, past-due student loans and maxed-out credit cards--"a just-tolerable state of atrophy." But Kyung refuses to ask for help from his far wealthier parents, who live in a meticulously restored Victorian mansion on the tony side of town. His Korean immigrant father, Jin, is an engineering professor whose patents and research grants provide more than enough for their big house and a vacation home on the Cape. Jin is also a tyrannical patriarch who established in his new country a traditional household of martial order over his uneducated wife, Mae, and young son. As Kyung remembers his youth, "His father hit Mae. Mae hit him. That was the order of succession in their family." The wounds of Kyung's abused childhood go deep. Much as he tries to avoid bringing his past into his own marriage, his carefully distanced life is upended when Jin and Mae are the victims of a sadistic home invasion by two drug- and alcohol-fueled transient criminals. Temporarily without their home and recovering from the brutal assault, they move in with Kyung's family--and the repressed anger and raw emotion of his youth bubble to the surface.

Shelter is primarily Kyung's story. Sometimes irrational, often impulsive, he keeps trying to overcome his damaging past. Yun's powerful debut novel leaves a memorable wake. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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