Sunday 15 July 2012

Cities of Refuge

Finished July 9
Cities of Refuge by Michael Helm

This novel is set in Toronto, and the title alludes to the various cities that exist for different people. Kim is a woman in her late twenties who has rejected the life of academic historian her father planned for her. She works a night security shift at the ROM and volunteers at GROUND, an organization that assists refugees. One night on her way to work, Kim is attacked and the attacker isn't identified or caught. She deals with this trauma by gradually venturing out into the night again, by writing about a man she imagines to be her attacker, and in trying to dredge any information from her memory of the attack to assist in identification. Kim's mother is ill and gradually failing and Kim moves back in with her and her stepfather to assist.
Her father Harold won't let go of this and is sure her work with GROUND has exposed her to the attack. He digs deeper into the world of refugee assistance, but continues to hide some of his own past from his daughter. The past connects with present in his head and logic begins to fail him.
In the world of refugees and those helping him, we meet the young man Rodrigo, a refugee from Colombia living in Canada illegally picking up casual labour, trying to stay out of trouble. He is living with Rosemary, a woman compelled by her faith and sense of right to help those refugees who have failed the government's criteria. Also helping is Father André whose feels assisting refugees and others in need is part of his mission.
As these world's gradually come together we see how each views the city around them in different ways.
Wonderfully written, with complex characters, this book has many layers and stories that reach back into the past.

1 comment:

  1. This book counts as my first book in the new 6th Canadian Book Challenge as well as the second on by TBR Challenge for the year.