A complicated story about a woman who is violently assaulted and how that impacts her life and the lives of those closest to her. Michael Helm, writer and instructor at York University in Toronto, weaves an intense story that focuses on the relationship between Kim and her father Harold, who abandoned the family when she was a child. Both are tormented by the attack yet in extremely different ways.

Harold is convinced that Kim’s work with refugees who have been denied the right to stay in Canada on compassionate or humanitarian grounds is entwined with the assault. He investigates his hunches to the chagrin of those around him and it brings him head to head with some whose faith based belief is to provide refuge to all regardless of their sins. Kim tries to make sense out of what has happened to her by writing down the story over and over again.

Perhaps the story is not so much complicated as the writing is poetic and often leaves images hanging between the pages that interferes with the flow of the narrative. However, this is part of what makes the prose so interesting and compels the reader to stay up late at night reading it.

From the book jacket…”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, …” Indeed.

Cities of Refuge. McClelland and Stewart Ltd. Hardcover ISBN – 13:978-0-7710-4039-9.