...[an] intimate and thought-provoking novel ... 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 ... Refuge is a timely novel, about a theme that touches and moves so many, no matter where you are from ... While this all seem like a solemn portrait of a broken family, Nayeri is actually very funny, and the book is full of color and flavor.
...both a commemoration of the ties that bind us and an indictment of the estrangement that isolates, and even kills, us ... With eyes wide open, Nayeri is not afraid to expose her characters as flawed, even unlikable. Caught between desperation and expectation, arrogance looms large: Bahman as the male patriarch whose less-than-thoughtful choices nearly destroy multiple lives, Niloo as the self-absorbed loner too damaged by fearful distrust to accept life-saving support. Presenting father and daughter in multi-faceted splendor, however, comes at a literary price for Nayeri: her intense involvement with Bahman and Niloo tends to eclipse her other, clearly lesser supporting cast ... Nayeri carefully illuminates the plight of the ever-searching, never-belonging global wanderer.
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; 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 ... But Refuge also has the kind of immediacy commonly associated with memoir, which lends it heft, intimacy, atmosphere ... 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. What person, in adulthood, doesn’t feel him- or herself twisting into impossible shapes?