16 Must-Read Books for January 2013

A love song for a divided country, an abandoned girl's hunt for home...and more!

Y: A Novel

272 pages; Free Press
Marjorie Celona was working as a housekeeper in Wisconsin when she began dreaming up a novel. After what she describes as a nearly "ten-year-long slog," the result, Y , is an effervescent debut that explores the hardscrabble life of a foundling. One summer morning Vaughn, a 30-something marathon runner, comes across a baby girl bundled in a sweatshirt and abandoned on the steps of the YMCA. Though he sees the child's mother, "her body bent in the cold wet wind," he misdirects the police about the way she looks, sensing that any intervention would cause harm. Shannon bounces from foster home to foster home until, at age 16, she can no longer ignore her need to know the true circumstances of her birth. Short and stocky with a lazy eye and brazenness as fiery as her white-blonde Afro, she sets out, with Vaughn's help, to uncover the truth. In a parallel narrative, Shannon's biological mother, Yula, endures immeasurable devastation—a coked-up lover (Shannon's father), her own mother's death by motorcycle, the loss of her son, and a careening collision with fate the night her daughter is born. Shannon emerges from the gloom intact, largely thanks to her caregiver, Miranda, who provides Shannon's only sense of stability. A meditation on loss, identity, and family, Y showcases a tenacious young writer as she schools us in compassion and ultimately cleans house.
— Kristy Davis