As a newborn, Shannon is abandoned at the local “Y”—and then spends much of her young life asking “Why?”
The cards seem stacked against Shannon as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. Celona reconstructs the story with an almost Faulkner-ian complexity as Shannon moves back and forth through the chronology of her life but also through her imaginative vision of her parents’ relationship. Along the way, she confronts the most painful question one can ask: Why was I abandoned? It turns out, there’s an eyewitness, Vaughn, who saw Shannon being deposited on the steps of the Y, and eventually, Shannon seeks him out to get one perspective on her story. (For one thing, she wants to know whether her mother kissed her before she abandoned her.) Shannon eventually discovers a complex and troubled family history that involves a variety of dysfunctions, including drinking and drugs. As a child, Shannon moves through several foster homes, each with its own issues, before she settles in with Miranda, a single mom with a daughter, Lydia-Rose. As one might expect, Shannon’s relationship with both stepmother and stepsister is rocky—and Shannon is not, after all, the easiest child to raise. Shannon’s birth mother, Yula, is herself a teenager when Shannon is born, and her father, Harrison, does drugs. Eventually, Shannon develops curiosity about her birthparents and seeks them out, leading to yet more emotional trauma.
Celona writes movingly about basic questions of identity, questions exacerbated by the unhappy circumstances of Shannon’s birth.