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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,525 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Finally, a moving immigrant story that looks at the larger contemporary refugee experience.

An Iranian girl escapes to America as a child, but her father stays behind. Over twenty years, as she transforms from confused immigrant to overachieving Westerner to sophisticated European transplant, daughter and father know each other only from their visits: four crucial visits o
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Riverhead Books
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Shereen He didn't kill Ali Mansoori, he killed Chicken Mansoori, the rooster. I think the rooster was getting on his nerves (but don't remember for sure). …moreHe didn't kill Ali Mansoori, he killed Chicken Mansoori, the rooster. I think the rooster was getting on his nerves (but don't remember for sure). (less)

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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,525 ratings  ·  229 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Refugee novels are extremely popular right now. Not surprising with the amount of refugees on the move around the world and the debate in various countries about what to do with them, to welcome them or send them back. What sets this novel apart is that it is partly based on the authors own experiences as a refugee as she left Iran with her mother and brother due to persucution by the religious police. She would see her father only four times in the preceding years.

Her character Niloo would mim
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
I enjoyed this tender drama about a splintered Iranian family and their tenuous relationships as the mother, daughter and son emigrate to America and then disperse again into Europe. The father, for various reasons, remains in Iran and remarries several times, occasionally traveling to Europe to visit his increasingly alienated children.

The story is mainly focused on the father, Bahman, and the daughter, Niloo, and their complicated bond. The first three quarters of the book really drew me in as
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Refuge, about a family who emigrates from Iran without the father, reads at times like a memoir. The novel's focus is on the relationships - particularly between Niloo and her father. Nayeri portrays Niloo's "difficult" father with generosity and illuminates the difficulty of maintaining bonds severed by distance and personal history. I emerged with a deeper understanding of Iranian culture and the contradictions of the immigrant experience. ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed! To see all my reviews visit Book Nation by Jen

In the late 1980s, Niloo, then 8 years old, left Iran with her mother and brother, thinking her dentist father would meet up with them soon after. As it turned out, this daddy’s girl only saw her father 4 times in a span of twenty years following their exodus. In Refuge, Author Dina Nayeri follows Niloo as a young married, Iranian woman on a journey to find herself and establish roots. Concurr
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had not heard of Nayeri’s Refuge until it made the Tournament of Books Longlist. Many within the Tournament of Books group were giving it rave reviews. Even though Refuge deals with the socially relevant topic of refugees, it is not a typical “refugee book”. Refuge tells the story of Niloo, a young Iranian refugee who fled to the United States when her mother’s choice of religion (Christianity) puts the family at risk. Covering a twenty year time span Refuge chronicles the comp ...more
i want to start this review by saying that dina nayeri doesn't have her own wikipedia entry. i am to remedy this as soon as possible.

i would like to continue by saying that this is the most moving book i've read this year (i mean last year, 2017) and it's okay that it flew under many radar screens so we can keep her to ourselves a little bit longer.

from what i could find online, nayeri is about 15 years younger than i, but her understanding of people, relations, human pain, belonging, families
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written story of a family separated by life, miles, choices, and shame. It is also at it’s heart, the story of longing for home. What is home? How do you make a home for yourself? Who do you choose to be your family after you are distanced from your family of birth? What is it like to live with that forever refugee feeling and to try and convince yourself that you have, over the years, learned to adapt? Or have you? This book highlights the reality of, no matter how embarrassed we ar ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: audiobook and father-daughter story lovers
Recommended to Amy by: jo
lovely you-can't-take-the-refugee-out-of-the-girl story about SO many things. Lovely narration by Mozhan Marno (Youssif Kamal was just alright). I'll be thinking about this one for a while and might add a star.

quotes & fuller thoughts to come. It was interesting to listen to this so close after listening to Exit West
Inderjit Sanghera
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'Refuge' is primarily a novel which deals with disconsolation, with Niloo's stories acting as a parable for the sense of loss which all refugees experience; the lost not only of their culture and everything which previously defined them but also of relationships, which in this case is the relationship between Niloo and her drug addict father after she flees Iran with her mother and brother. The loss of her father-and the subsequent unfulfilled promises of them reuniting, cause a sense of mistrus ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

I nearly gave up on this book, but kept reading to find a very realistic (to me) story of a family as seen through the eyes of the daughter and the father. Probably a bit too detailed and this could have made for a nice little novella but the details bring the culture and cross cultures to life.
This was 4.5 read for me.

Thoughts coming shortly.
Alison Hardtmann
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
This is a story of immigration told in the fractured relationship between a woman and the father who remained behind in Iran. Niloo was eight when she was bundled into a car and left Istafan, Iran forever. Her mother, a Christian, was in danger and her father remained behind, his successful dental practice and opium addiction keeping him there. Over then years, there were a few brief, unsatisfactory reunions.

Niloo is a success story. Her mother works long hours in menial jobs to support them an
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read hundreds of novels in my life. This is the first time I've read my life in a novel. I've identified with characters before, but this book about an Iranian refugee who becomes a professor in America was a trip to read. It's not perfect--the marriage is not super believable, but I would love to read more like this one. ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I haven't heard of Dina Nayeri before. Now that I did, I want to read more books by her, definitely. Let me begin this by saying that I loved all characters. They are flawed and so human. At many points throughout the book, I found myself confused, not knowing who to side with because each person has done bad and good. I don't know if I'm biased because I love family dramas but I can say that this one particularly touched me. ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book touches on so many aspects of the immigrant experience without being “about” the immigrant experience. Instead, it’s a touching novel of love, marriage, family, home, forgiveness, and human imperfections. Thanks to the Tournament of Books Long List for bringing it to my attention
David Ball
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A marvellous book, beautifully written, with two very strong, interconnected storylines. My wife and I have spent more time debating the plausibility of the ending than any other book in recent memory.

The story, which reads more like a memoir than a novel, follows two characters over sixteen years: a romantic opium addict from the east and a highly strung striver from the west. Father and daughter. But their lives are almost completely independent, running in parallel in very different parts of
lark benobi
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: riverhead, 2018
Refuge forced me to look at things from a very narrow field of view, like looking at Van Gogh's sunflowers through a small magnifying glass, inch by inch. I get why some readers enjoyed it because the writing is lovely but the pacing left me feeling enervated and depressed. ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ostensibly this book is about the places where we seek refuge, whether one is literally fleeing for one’s life due to one’s political or religious beliefs or whether one is simply seeking comfort from the slings and arrows of our personal present and past. I get the message but the novel failed for me ultimately as fiction. I never believed it.

The book switches between the perspectives of Niloo, a young Iranian-American who emigrated to the U.S. with her mother and brother in the 1980s and Nilo
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hard to summarize my thoughts about this book. In an afterword, the author describes its autobiographical roots, so there’s that to consider, and thus my 4 stars.

I loved the description of the main character’s father and the vivid writing about all things Iranian. Among the many novels I’ve read lately about the experiences of immigrants, this one did the best job of describing the constant emotional toll of always being from somewhere else.

Of course there’s my however. The structure of the bo
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, story of a refugee girl who has seen her father only four years during a twenty , something period since she has fled Iran with her mother and her brother.

She's left her father in Iran and his father has been remained 33 for her,always that cheerful young guy who has promised her he'd join them someday soon, but he never did.

She carried all her insecurities for years, she is now a very successful modern woman , married to a good man but still she is that scared 8 years old refug
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Dina Nayeri’s portrait of the ambivalent loss that is caused and endured by immigration.

I loved the English translations of Farsi sayings, such as the question “How is the atmosphere of your heart?”

I also resonated with many of the sentiments shared by the author about displacement and what we do to find our core. “When you’ve lost something, you return to the place you last saw it and you search, turning that room upside down. Where else would Niloo search for her lost Joy, he
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I struggled to finish this book. It never pulled me into the story. I found the characters to be unlikable (with the exception of Gui) and felt their decisions were confusing. Most of the characters behaved badly even towards family members. The book was well-written and at times funny and touching. The ending was thought-provoking but by then it wasn't enough for me. The author does a good job of describing Iranian dishes to the extend that the reader can almost taste them. I really wanted to l ...more
Ronia Dubbaneh
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
An opium-addicted, wealthy, Iranian dentist says goodbye to his wife and 2 kids as they leave Iran to seek asylum. He promises to follow, but his opium, money, dental practice, and 2 subsequent wives keep him tied to Iran. His daughter Niloo grows up as an American Ivy League student, marries a French man and ends up a European elitist. She only sees her father 4 times throughout her lifetime, each time shaken by a different decaying version of her addict father - a man she is so similar to but ...more
There has never been a more perfect time for Dina's novel. Drawn from her own memories, 8 year old Dina fled Iran with her brother and mother, who had converted to Christianity and was being harassed by Iran's morality police. Her dentist father, stayed behind in Iran while the family was settled in Oklahoma.Afterwards she only saw her father 4 times. This narrative becomes the bedrock for the imagined visits of young Niloo as she and her father age during their respective lifetimes during their ...more
I really wanted to like the book. I generally love this author's writing style, and thoroughly enjoyed her previous work, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea. This one, however, was mostly a miss for me; the three stars are more for Nayeri's lyrical prose than for the plot or character development.


Refuge reads plainly as a work written by a White Person about the Other (in this case, formerly unprivileged Muslims). The book is full of basic tropes and Iranian stereotypes (the phrase "Iranian gr
This novel goes straight to the top of best reads in 2017, what a gift this story is.
Dina Nayeri has shared her personal tale of immigration and estrangement through the fictional lives of Niloo and Bahman. The divide between any father and daughter relationship can be huge, especially during a child's teenage years. In this case the rift is an ocean, the divide widened by cultural change, religion and separation.
Niloo immigrates to America with her brother and mother, a woman targeted in their
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story of refugees somewhat based on newspaper clippings. The story concentrates on a father and his daughter who are separated. The daughter escapes Iran to the Netherlands. The father is stuck in Iran. The relationship becomes strained. This one tugged at my heart.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it

TW: Drug Abuse & Overdosing

"The way appears."

-  Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

"No way, you will not make the Netherlands your home."

- Geert Wilders


They were all so flawed and human and it was fantastic. 

We have Niloo (or Niloofar) who is our protagonist; a well off, well educated, stylish, cultured Iranian - American women of 30, who is stuck in a struggling in her marriage to her French husband Gui in Amsterdam in 2009. Born in the Islamic Republic of Iran, around th
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good place to start before delving into Dina Nayeri's illuminating and compelling novel, REFUGE, is with an essay the author wrote for THE GUARDIAN shortly before her book was published. Here is a link:
The essay on being a refugee was very enlightening to me. It made me consider how a refugee might feel in ways I never had before. In the essay, Nayeri recounts her own experiences as a refugee when she and her mother and brother traveled from their nativ
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Dina Nayeri is a graduate of Princeton, Harvard Business School, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She spends her time in New York and Iowa City.

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25 likes · 4 comments
“The mystic Al-Ghazali said that the inhabitants of heaven remain forever thirty-three. It reminds me of Iran, stuck in 1976 in the imagination of every exile. Iranians often say that when they visit Tehran or Shiraz or Isfahan, they find even the smallest changes confusing and painful - a beloved corner shop gone to dust, the smell of bread that once filled a street, a rose garden neglected. In their memories, they always change it back. Iran is like an aging parent, they say.” 1 likes
“You can't fight instinct. You can't teach genuine restraint. I got my instincts from a man whose supply of restraint was as limited and unpredictable as the supply of black market music tapes or the last stash of sour cherries in the freezer.” 1 likes
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