Refuge

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

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. 

Boring
The thing is however, Refuge is really boring. At some points it's brilliantly written and very exciting; but there are too many pages of describing parks, streets or the average day is described over and over again. I just don't care to know what it was like to have lunch in Central Park everyday. 
Additionally, Merilyn Simonds does far too much telling and not enough showing. I didn't need to be told about New York City; I'd rather have had it shown for me. Describing the walks our lead gal takes is just dull. However had it been showing me what our lead gal saw as she walked the city that may/would have been different. 

Just didn't care
The other major factor for my not finishing Refuge was that our lead gal as an old woman is kind of awful. And I get that there are probably reasons that would come out as the story progressed; but I just couldn't stand her. I also had a hard time with the future scenario that some girl just shows up on her secluded residence doorstep. It just didn't make a lot of sense to me. These factors contributing to me not caring about our lead gal or the mystery visitor. And honestly past that there are no more characters really worth investing effort in. 

Conclusion
A book like Refuge needs to be based off solid, relatable characters. With so few points of interaction that last longer than a few chapters with our leading lady we really need to connect with her. That's not to say she has to be nice but she does need to make sense to the reader. For me this connection was missing and it ruins the whole experience of Refuge because I just didn't care what happened to our leading lady in her life. I also believe Refuge needed a strict editor to cut down on all the telling of scenery that happens. I barely tolerate that type of description in my favourite book (LOTR) of all time; therefore, it's highly unlikely I'll tolerate it in anything else.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Cassandra is a free spirit who travels as a nurse and an artist.  The novel chronicles her life, her friendships, her loves, and her family.   

I loved the novel.
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Title was archived before I could review it sadly. Guess I will have to buy it if I would like to read it. I am new to the Galley and was not aware of the fact that the archival date meant that I could not access the title anymore. Too bad
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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.
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This was my first book by Merilyn Simonds. The story is about ninety-six-year-old Cassandra McCallum, who is living alone on an island in Canada, having outlived everyone in her life.  After leaving home at a young age, she lives an unconventional life in Mexico, New York, and Canada as a photographer and nurse. Intertwined in the story is Cass's relationship with Frida Kahlo who she nurses and befriends. She's back home living in isolation when she is contacted via email by Nang Aung Myaing, a  Burmese refugee claiming to be the granddaughter of her long lost son.  Cass eventually allows Nang to visit her and in doing so relives her colorful past. The story jumps around quite a bit as Cass recalls different times in her life and many family secrets are revealed.  Nang's determination to establish her right by kinship to remain in Canada forces Cass to recall memories she’d rather let alone.  I enjoyed this story once I adjusted to the time shifts going backwards and forwards in Cass' life.  Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book for my review.
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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 relationships with her family and friends are both loving and challenging; this is especially true with regard to her son.  This is her story, not Nang's, of which we only get a taste. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  Simonds is a new author to me and I'm going to look for her in the future.
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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.
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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, by Merilyn Simonds, Nang Aung Myaing shows up at Cass’s house with a request for help with her claim for asylum.

Cass was always her father’s favorite and, unfortunately, loathed by her older sister, May. When their father dies and May makes it impossible for her to stay on the farm, Cass takes her newly minted nursing degree and goes to Mexico City. Through a few lucky coincidences and with the generosity of the people she meets, Cass builds a fuller, more interesting and useful life. (I’ll admit that I raised my eyebrows when Cass met and nursed Frieda Kahlo.) The vivacity of Cass’s life in Mexico is a bright contrast to the cold, grating existence in Canada, with a sister who will not forgive her for anything.

While we learn more about Cass’s life in Mexico, we also see her stubbornly refusing to believe Nang Aung Myaing’s story about her heritage. At first, I didn’t understand Cass when there was compelling evidence to believe the new arrival. It’s only as Cass unspools her story that I saw what she had once had and what she’d had to let go that I realized what it might cost Cass to accept that she might still have living family. She loved her son and her son’s father so much, that one would think having something of them back would be a boon. By the same token, however, accepting Nang Aung Myaing means that she can’t avoid dredging up her grief over their loss.

While Refuge begins with a woman winding down her life, it ends with a reclamation of what life she still has left. Nang Aung Myaing brings back some of the brightness and urgency Cass felt when she lived in Mexico, or when her lover or her son were still alive. This book is full of life and the struggle to stay alive, which I always find profoundly moving. Even with the bits I didn’t quite believe (Frieda Kahlo!), I really enjoyed Refuge.
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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 contradictory statements 
“How old are you?” The right after
“I remeber the day you were born”
If you remeber the day she was born you should know how old she is. She shouldnt seem to be stranger if the man supposedly knows her so well. 

Thank you so much to ECW press via netgalley for sending me an ARC copy of Refuge by Merilyn Simonds.  This will be released on September 4, 2018
All opinions are my own.
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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 Maccallum's life from the very beginning with her father bringing her into the world. She was born on a Canadian farm and traveled to Mexico after becoming a nurse, then to New York. It decribes her romances and her fears. Her many losses over the years. The twist is finding something she never knew she had in the form of a refugee near the very end of her life, when she is content with her solitude

I loved the acknowledgments at the end where it gives additional reading about the non fictional people she added into the story so if you are interested you can read more about them. 

With richly descriptive passages and a photographic element that I was happy to find inside this gem of a novel you will not be disappointed. 


*I would like to thank #NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this review in exchange for an honest review.
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From the very beginning you will be sucked right into this story! Finished it in one sitting.  Cass in 96 years old and living on her island when her life is upended by Nang a Burmese woman who claims to be her great-granddaughter.  Heartbreaking at times, you won't want to put this down.
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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 discover what it means to both seek and offer Refuge
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