Cities of Refuge

Cities of Refuge

eBook - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In Cities of Refuge , Michael Helm's keenly anticipated new novel, a single act of violence resonates through several lives, connecting closeby fears to distant political terrors. At the story's centre is the complex, intensely charged relationship between a 28-year-old woman and the father who abandoned her when she was young.

One summer night on a side street in downtown Toronto, Kim Lystrander is attacked by a stranger. Thrown deep into turmoil, in the weeks and months that follow, she confronts her fear by returning to the night, in writing, searching for harbingers of the incident, and clues to the identity of her assailant. The attack also torments Kim's father, Harold, an historian of Latin America. As he investigates the crime on his own, the darkest hours from his past revisit him, and he gradually begins to unravel. Entwined in their story are Kim's ailing mother, Marian; Father André Rowe, whose mission to guide others involves him in a decision with troubling consequences; Rodrigo Cantero, a young Colombian man, living illegally in the city; and Rosemary Yates, a woman whose faith-based belief in the duty to give asylum to any who seek it, even those judged guilty, draws Harold to her, before a fateful choice changes the future for them all.

Cities of Refuge is a novel of profound moral tension and luminous prose. It weaves a web of incrimination and inquiry, where mysteries live within mysteries, and stories within stories, and the power to save or condemn rests in the forces of history, and in the realm of our deepest longings.
Publisher: Berkeley, CA :, Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West
Portland, OR :, Tin House Books,, 2013
ISBN: 9780771040429
Branch Call Number: Online eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file, rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Cdnbookworm Sep 14, 2012

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.

Aug 01, 2012

Probably well-intentioned, but barely readable. I like the title, from the Bible, with "cities of refuge" being for those not good, not evil.

debwalker Apr 29, 2011

One night, a woman is attacked in Toronto, and the ramifications and repercussions of the act affect a wide circle of people in the city, including her, of course, her father and mother, a young illegal immigrant and a woman determined to offer asylum to everyone, even the guilty.

Sep 14, 2010

I found this a very difficult book to follow. I did not relate well to the characters and I found it difficult to see how the different story lines were interrelated. I forced myself to finish, but there was no satisfying resolution for me. The story is involved and has lots of description, but it was not to my taste.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SPL

To Top