In Cities of Refuge, a single act of violence resonates through several lives, connecting closeby fears to distant political terrors. At the story’s center is the complex, intensely charged relationship between a twenty-eight-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, a 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 stories 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, in which 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.
About Michael Helm
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Published February 18, 2013
by Tin House Books.
Literature & Fiction.