Skip to content

Refuge: A Novel, by Merilyn Simonds.

July 22, 2018

Refuge A Novel

Refuge: A Novel, by Merilyn Simonds.  EWC, 2018.

4 stars

A story narrated by a Canadian woman in her nineties whose memories surface when she is visited by a young Burmese woman who claims to be the granddaughter of her lost son.

Merilyn Simmonds was born in Winnipeg and raised in Brazil. Returning to Ontario, she became a freelance journalist and has published several non-fiction books.  She has also publish in a variety of types of writing, including novels. Her Convict Lover, a book of creative nonfiction, gained her literary fame. She and her husband continue to have homes in Ontario and Mexico.

Cassie, the narrator of Refuge, is 96 years old and continues to live alone in her own refuge, a tiny cabin on an island which her father had once owned.  She values her self-sufficiency and is reluctant to meet Nang, who arrives claiming to be the daughter of Cassie’s son whom Cassie believes had been killed in World War II. Nang wants help gain refugee status in Canada.  Cassie is bored, curious, and unwilling to believe the girl is really a relative.  But with the help of Sean, a neighbor, the women slowly interact.  Cassie’s memories and belongings spill out confirming, but never proving, their connection.  As she relates in her stories, Cassie has lived a far from conventional life in Mexico and New York City as well as Canada.  She also reveals her deep love for her son, jealousy for her sister with whom he sometimes lived, and her guilt that he had not returned to her.

The text of the book moves back and forth among the times and places Cassie has lived and worked and loved.  The past is there, ready to be revisited.  But the retelling of her adventures brings peace, not from words or thoughts, but from simple tasks performed alongside Nang and Sean.

I strongly recommend Refuge to readers ready to slow down and care.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: