Cities of Refuge

Michael Helm, Author
Michael Helm. Tin House, $15.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-935639-49-7
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-7710-4032-0
Ebook - 418 pages - 978-1-935639-50-3
Ebook - 408 pages - 978-0-7710-4042-9
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-0-7710-4039-9
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The humanity that informed Helm’s previous novels, including The Projectionist, is again in evidence in this standout about the aftershocks of a brutal crime. Twenty-eight-year-old Kim Lystrander is riding her bike to her Toronto home after having dinner with her parents when she’s brutally attacked by a masked rapist, escaping with injuries both mental and physical. She resists plastic surgery to fix her nose, believing that its altered appearance should reflect her state of mind in the wake of the assault. Kim’s father suspects that the attack might be linked to his daughter’s work for an advocacy group for undocumented aliens, and Kim withdraws and retreats as much as possible, unable to engage even in identifying her assailant. If the general plot outline doesn’t break new ground, Helm’s often mournful prose does; one character looks at the future arc of his life and anticipates floating “for years toward... death like so much space junk destined for burning reentry.” The author’s facility in making Kim’s pain the reader’s own makes this a powerful depiction of the struggle to overcome adversity. Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)
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