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, 96-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 prompts the old woman to accept a visit. But Nang’s story of torture and flight provokes memories in Cass that peel back, layer by layer, the events that brought her to this moment — and forces her, against her will, to confront the tragedy she has refused for half a century. Could her son really be Nang’s grandfather? What does she owe this girl, who claims to be stateless because of her MacCallum blood? Drawn, despite herself, into Nang’s search for refuge, Cass struggles to accept the past and find a way into whatever future remains to her.
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 17 books, including Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, a 2017 Globe Best Book, The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and the Canadian classic work of creative nonfiction, The Convict Lover, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her work has been anthologized and published internationally. In 2017, Project Bookmark Canada unveiled a plaque to honor the place of The Convict Lover in Canada’s literary landscape. She grew up in South America and now divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and Mexico.
“Do you believe what you see with your eyes or what you see with your heart? That question, raised by Simonds’ layered and nuanced account of an extraordinary life, will provoke thought in skeptics and believers alike.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Against the backdrop of almost a century of Canadian, Mexican, and American history, Simonds explores the sometimes unknown, astonishing, and enduring-against-all-odds connections between siblings, parents, and children that span generations and the globe.” — Booklist
“Real people and events are woven into this work of fiction, enhancing its intrigue and authenticity without removing the spotlight from Cass. Cass’s obsession with scientific experimentation and examination … infuses the story with detail, insight, and depth.” — Foreword Reviews
“Artful and allusive.” — Quill & Quire
“A silk scarf of a novel, which catches on far-flung places and deep heartaches, and gathers them into an old woman’s gnarled and feisty memory. Merilyn Simonds shows how mysterious we remain to ourselves and to each other after even a century of living.” — Elizabeth Hay, author of Giller Prize-winning Late Nights on Air