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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  109 ratings  ·  39 reviews
To whom do we offer refuge – and why?

After a life that rubbed up against the century’s great events in New York City, Mexico, and Montreal, ninety-six-year-old Cassandra MacCallum is surviving well enough, alone on her island, when a young Burmese woman contacts her, claiming to be kin. Curiosity, loneliness, and a slender filament of hope prompt her to accept a visit. But
Paperback, 312 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by ECW Press
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Barbara I suspect the opposite - that it was a letter with DNA results showing there WAS a genetic link.

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Angela M
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it

Canadian author Merilyn Simonds is a new author for me, one I was not familiar with, even though she has written sixteen books. I’m glad to have discovered her now with this beautifully written story. It is told from the point of view of 96 year old Cass MacCallum’s present day in 2001, a solitary existence on her island in Canada. She takes us to her childhood and moves seamlessly back and forth in time until we get caught up on her life. The youngest of nine daughters, inquisitive about the li
Mel (Epic Reading)
DNF @ 40%

I really wanted to like this book. It has the common (these days) novel structure where there is a storyline in the present and a storyline in the past. And of course these storylines connect. In this case the old woman we see at the cottage whom receives an unexpected visitor is the young woman in the past story. However the majority of what I read kept us firmly put in the past which was fine by me.

The thing is however, Refuge is really boring. At some points it's brilliantly
Like other readers, I was reading only a chapter or two of REFUGE a day. The writing is lush, sensual and evocative — I didn't want to rush it. Until last night, that is, when I was still reading hungrily at 2:00 in the morning. It's a beautifully crafted literary novel, both historic and contemporary — a masterpiece of a work — and also a deeply compelling mystery, a novel that will haunt me for some time to come. ...more
Laurie Mackie
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Rare is the novel I must read, from beginning to end, in one sitting. Merilyn Simond’s Refuge one of those few gems. Now on my third reading, I still have immense difficulty in closing the pages.

There I met ninety-six-year-old Cassandra McCallum, haunted, cynical, and fiercely protective of her self-imposed isolation. Enter Miss Nang Aung Myaing, a purported twenty-three-year-old Burmese refugee. Suspecting that Myaing’s email is yet another scam, Cass deletes it only to receive a second. And th
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Perhaps more towards a 3.5 stars. The beginning was the strongest and the best for me, I was really sucked into it and was enjoying it tremendously. Then it started to wander and sadly, I really didn't like the ending. :-( ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, nook
Refuge ⭐️

Where to start... the writing was very descriptive and at first that was beautiful but then it became too much.

I think it had potential to show the power and strength behind those that have suffered but since I read We Are Not Refugees recently this just seemed bland in compassion.
Cass our protagonist is a strong character but she is also very much weak and terrified.

She had beautiful statements but that didnt seem to fit in the story. Theyw ere just there to fill space.

There were c
Emily Ferko
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down, and read it in two sittings. Cass is a badass and I want to live in her cabin and her memories forever. ...more
Julia Keizer
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Refuge is the type of book that you never want to put down, never want it to end, but you can't stop reading it. I stayed up late into the night reading and losing myself in the amazing journey and life of Cass.
It reads just like you would think an elderly ladies mind would be. Drifting from a colorful past and come slamming back to the present. Recalling memories she wants to leave behind, even if they are the most loving and beautiful memories tainted with loss.

It was an amazing tale of Cass
Carol Tomalty
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read some of the other reviews and thought I would add my thoughts.

It is because the book is written from two different angles that it kept me engaged and engrossed. Simonds made me want to follow the connections and think about how the characters were all connected to each other.

I kept the book on my bedside table and read it as slowly as I could make myself read it (but I admit to not being able to not read the ending, once I got within spitting distance of it!), b/c the language was ri
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cass MacCallum has had a life of ups and downs. At ninety-six, she has more or less made peace with it. She lives in her little house on her little Ontario island, waiting for her body to finally give out with age. But then someone from Myanmar starts to send her emails, claiming to be the granddaughter of Cass’s long lost son. At the beginning of Refuge, Nang Aung Myaing shows up at Cass’s house with a request for help with her claim for asylum...

Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The tapestry of a life is what Refuge holds.

From Cassandra's first musing, I was drawn into her narrative. It is beautiful. It is heart wrenching. It is representative of a woman's strength and desire to both persevere and disappear.

Thank you Net Galley for allowing me to be one of the first to hear what it means to both seek and offer Refuge.
Olga Gamer
Aug 13, 2018 marked it as gave-up-on
I thought that "Refuge" started out strong with so much potential but after a few chapters (I think I got through 75 pages), I ended up shelving it. The problem (for me) was that there was too much jumping back and forth between the past and present, and I constantly felt taken out of the story. The narrator didn't grab me, though I tried to sympathize for her. ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has many layers, each one richer than the one before. I found it almost impossible to walk away from, and finished it in a couple of days. This is truly Historical Fiction at its finest. Yes, there is romance , but written without the sappy icing. The story is fascinating, and reaches deep into the spirit of family, heritage, and community.
James Fisher
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
After finishing this book, I still cannot decide if I liked it. It (the story) turned a little odd near the end. There was also a lack of characters I liked, which is always problematic for me. Still, a solid three stars. Full review: ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s been awhile since I opened a book that I had to force myself to read more slowly, to make it last longer. From the first few pages I knew I would feel a sense of loss when it was over. I was right. I finished it hours ago and though I know I was given enough, in the end, to satisfy, I still wish there were more.

The protagonist, Cassandra MacCallum, is so real I swear I know her—she’s a next-door neighbour; the one teacher/nurse/mother-of-a-friend I’ll never forget; the woman I helped with
Sharron Hanna
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I've only recently discovered the work of this Canadian author. And I'm glad I have. Her recently published novel REFUGE delivers a compelling story whose central character, 96 year old Cassandra MacCullum, comes complete with all the curmudgeonly qualities and physical frailties invariably if unfairly ascribed to that age cohort. As memorable fictional characters go, Cass, for me, is right up there with Margaret Laurence's Hagar Shipley. She is not necessarily loveable but girded with decades o ...more
Kathleen Gray
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Is it possible Nang is really Cass's granddaughter? Or, is she simply seeking assistance with immigration to Canada. But if she isn't, how did she find Cass, who is now 96 years old and living on an island? Simonds uses Nang as a way to tell an interesting tale of a woman who did not want to be bound. The story moves back and forth in time a bit but it's always clear what's going on. Cass lives in various places in the Americas but it's not until she lands on the island that she settles. Her rel ...more
Bigi Parsons
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I am always delighted to learn about a Canadian author I knew nothing about. With 13 books under Simonds's belt, you would think the story line would hold together better. I would like to have had a deeper understanding of the 96 year old central figure Cassandra. I found the idea of a Burmese visitor finding her in her out of the way location a bit unlikely. More unlikely was the friendship she(Cassandra) apparently had with Frieda in New York. What was most intriguing to me was the way in whic ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
I found Cassie’s father to be the only likable character. Cassie and May were not likable. So Cassie sent her son to her family’s farm during the summer to get out of NYC during the Polio epidemic. Why does that make her a bad mother? She did other questionable things but that wasn’t one of them. The whole Frieda relationship was random and felt her presence was forced hastily in the storyline. There were a few poignant passages. However, I found this book to be very frustrating to say the least ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot. It was a slow burn, but I dig the historical fiction elements and learned a lot about polio (weirdly!) and q bit about Freida Khalo. I did get a little weary of the structure as I grew increasingly more interested in being in the present story (where a refugee from Burma comes to the 90-some year old narrator's cabin on an island claiming to be her granddaughter) but there was a really good shift by the end that was quite satisfying. Definitely a book worth checking out ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A hard book to rate or review. It loops into and around certain events and merely dips a toe into others. It is rife with fictionalized vetsions of historic moments and personages. But still, the storyline holds together as frayed and thin as memory, occasionally obscured by the intrusion of time. A negative only partially saved from damp and rot. An ending that reminds us that sometimes the answers we search for matter not. We make art of the bits, write our own ending.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A heart-felt rendering of a feisty woman’s life

Cassandra MacCallum is one of those characters who will live on and on in my head. Love her early years with her father and right the way through! A book about an entire life and all the little connections between now and the past that aren’t evident, without knowing one’s beginnings. A delicious read.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and beautifully written novel that spans much of the 20th century in Canada, Mexico and New York City. Simonds could have done more to explain the son’s feeling about this mother though, and I found the ending disturbing - even though it was probably inevitable given the protagonist’s character. I will read more of Simonds work however.
Theresa Wallace
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful novel by Merilyn Simonds that moves back and forward in time to tell the story of Cass, who is closing in on a century of living. Reminded me of Stone Angel and other Canadian classic must-reads. Loved this book!
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing

A charming story.
If you enjoy Mexican culture or spontaneous adventure, I recommend giving this one a read.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
An extremely independent and somewhat crotchety old woman, living alone on an island in Ontario, is visited by a young Burmese woman, who claims to be her great-granddaughter.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Would rate zero if I could. Couldn’t stand it past page 13. Painful to read.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Disappointing. No real story about the young refugee who arrives on the old woman's doorstep - just her reminiscences. The ending was meaningless. ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
So many themes running through this book, many based on real events/people. Lots of good references in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book.
Doriana Bisegna
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I have a whole new appreciation for Merilyn Simonds and her writing. Beautiful story , beautiful writing! Couldn't put it down. ...more
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Merilyn Simonds is the author of 18 books, including the novel The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, and the Canadian classic nonfiction novel, The Convict Lover, a finalist for the Governor General's Award. In 2017, Project Bookmark Canada unveiled a plaque to honour the place of The Convict Lover in Canada’s literary landscape.

Simonds’ short fiction is anthologized internat

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