Refuge: A Novel was praised by readers for its authenticity and poise. It has earned overwhelming admiration for its relevance to the life of a refugee and asylum seeker as well as its inclusion of tattered familial, cultural, political and personal relationships. Below, praises and few criticisms follow Nayeri’s successes and pitfalls in her art, respectively.
New York Times Book Review
“The novel embraces a number of settings with humor and authority, capturing time and place through the lens of believably awkward and tender family interactions. One of its strengths is the heartrending depiction of Niloo’s bid to reconnect with her birth country through budding relationships with a constellation of Iranians in Amsterdam, each of whom hovers in a different brand of immigrant limbo.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
Crystalline, vivid, moving, and without pretensions, Nayeri’s writing is fluid and spare. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, and even if you are claustrophobic, don’t be afraid of submerging into the spellbinding world of Refuge. Her prose doesn’t have the heaviness of the subjects she writes about, and this is a true gift. In magical ways, she creates poetry: “We are all here, still waiting […] broken from the earth like turmeric root, staining everything.”
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New York Times
“Reinvention may be a necessity for most exiles, but it does not always come naturally; the new identity can graft roughly onto the old. The strains and indignities that come with remaking a life are what give Refuge poignancy and relevance… Nayeri’s prose can be rich and colorful, bolts of words prettily unfurling…Refuge also has the kind of immediacy commonly associated with memoir, which lends it heft, intimacy, atmosphere.”
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“I picked Refuge as my tube read this week and ended up spontaneously bursting into tears at so many moments. Dina Nayeri focuses on the relationship between an Iranian father and daughter as they explore the experience of exile from different sides of the world and there is so much beauty and pain expressed in her prose. At times, I found it both difficult to read and difficult to put down… Which is how I know I’ll be recommending it to everyone I know. It’s stunning.”
“Refuge should be required summer reading in 2017… In her second novel, Nayeri draws from her personal experience as an Iranian refugee to craft a beautiful and poignant portrait of the many different experiences of the displaced. A timely and necessary work, Refuge asks readers to challenge their definitions of home and belonging…Written in lush and poetic prose, Refuge is a heartrending story of displacement, identity, and finding a place where you truly belong. Thought-provoking as it is emotionally moving, Nayeri’s novel balances several stories in one: the politics of Iran, the intricacies of family, and the emotions of trying to replant roots that were ripped up… An essential addition to the growing library of refugee literature, Refuge is a vital read for anyone trying to understand what it means to lose and look for home.”
Nayari uses gentle humor and evocative prose to illuminate the power of familial bonds and to bestow individuality on those anonymous people caught between love of country and need for refuge. A beautiful addition to the burgeoning literature of exile. —Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL
Nayeri’s second novel is richly imagined and frequently moving in its descriptions of the neither-here-nor-there immigrant’s life…Nayeri manages these various threads—the personal, the political, the cultural, the generational—deftly, and the result is poignant, wise, and often funny… A vital, timely novel about what it means to seek refuge.
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The New Yorker
Nayeri’s prose is sometimes overwrought, but her exploration of the exile’s predicament is tender and urgent.
New York Times
Nayeri’s prose can be rich and colorful, bolts of words prettily unfurling; it can also be florid, melodramatic — she sometimes writes with a heavy hand as well as a heavy heart, particularly in the last third of her book.
The novel may indulge in a few purple paragraphs too many. But that won’t stop many readers from responding to it with affection — and perhaps recognition.
More Reviews on Nayeri’s Website
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Sydney Gualtieri ’19