Merilyn Simonds
Book cover - Refuge: a novel

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read from Refuge (MP3) »


.   Book Club Questions   .

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.   Stories Behind the Story   .

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Frida Kahlo

Flying the Hump

Infantile Paralysis

 

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.   Refuge: a novel   .

Published by: ECW Press
Publish Date: September 4, 2018
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.   To whom do we offer refuge – and why?   .

After a life that rubbed up against the century’s great events in New York City, Mexico, and Montreal, 96-year-old Cassandra MacCallum is surviving well enough, alone on her island, when a young Burmese woman contacts her, claiming to be kin. Curiosity, loneliness, and a slender filament of hope prompts the old woman to accept a visit. But Nang’s story of torture and flight provokes memories in Cass that peel back, layer by layer, the events that brought her to this moment – and forces her, against her will, to confront the tragedy she has refused for half a century. What does she owe this girl, who claims to be stateless because of her MacCallum blood? Drawn, despite herself, into Nang’s search for refuge, Cass struggles to accept the past and find a way into whatever future remains to her.

.   Interview with Hal Wake   .

Hal Wake, esteemed Canadian literary maven (former CBC book producer and artistic director of Vancouver International Writers Festival), interviews Merilyn Simonds about the inspiration for and process of writing her new novel, Refuge.

Listen to the interview (MP3) »

.   Praise for Refuge   .

“A page-turner of a novel, Refuge reminds us how the gift of sanctuary shapes both those who offer it and those who receive it.”
Shyam Selvadouri, twice winner of the Lambda Literary Award, author of Cinnamon Gardens and The Hungry Ghosts

“This novel patiently accrues richness and layered resonance in the manner of a long life—in fact, like the almost century-long life of its stubborn, vital heroine. It also explores in personal and intimate terms the most important issues of our time: the nature of borders and belonging and the plight of the refugee.”
Steven Heighton, author of the Governor General’s Award–winning The Waking Comes Late.

“A silk scarf of a novel, which catches on far-flung places and deep heartaches and gathers them into an old woman’s gnarled and feisty memory. Merilyn Simonds shows how mysterious we remain to ourselves and to each other after even a century of living.”
Elizabeth Hay, author of Giller Prize–winning Late Nights on Air

“Revolving around a single unlikely hub—the restless and irascible Cass McCallum (whose motto might be: Living is hard, but Loving is harder)—this whirling journey through the 20th century is energized by fateful encounters with people, places, history and Nature, all of which invite us to reconsider with freshly invigorated senses the world we think we know, and the kinships we think we share, even with those we hold most dear.”
John Vaillant, author of The Jaguar’s Children and winner of the Governor General’s Award, the BC Book Prize, and the Windham Campbell Literature Prize.

“Do you believe what you see with your eyes or what you see with your heart? That question, raised by Simond’s layered and nuanced account of an extraordinary life, will provoke thought in skeptics and believers alike.”
Kirkus Review

.   Readers’ Comments   .

“The tapestry of a life is what Refuge holds. From Cassandra’s first musing, I was drawn into her narrative. It is beautiful. It is heart wrenching. It is representative of a woman’s strength and desire to both persevere and disappear. Thank you Net Galley for allowing me to be one of the first to hear what it means to both seek and offer Refuge.”
–Amy

“I can’t tell you how many times in the last two or three years that I have started reading a book only to put it aside, unfinished. Refuge held my interest from the first page until the last. I cared about the characters, found them all to be interesting people living in interesting times. Cassandra MacCallum is unforgettable.”
–David Sweet, bookseller
Books & Company, Picton, ON

.   Reviews   .

Refuge interweaves Cass MacCallum’s painful reckoning with her family history and her developing relationship with Nang Aung Myaing. Simonds depicts the varied settings and incidents with adept and vivid specificity, but it’s Cass herself—sharp, determined, cantankerous—who provides unity to the narration. Cass must ultimately consider whether human connections, whatever their pretext, are more meaningful than blood ties…a moving conclusion to her fitful and often unhappy story.”
–Rohan Maitzen
Quill & Quire, July/August issue