The Muralist, a Meeting, and Some Observations

So timely!
I  recently purchased  The Muralist,  a novel by B.A. Shapiro. Murals interest me. The global community murals in Brooklyn, the historical or political art in Oaxaca or the street art in Paris...I always stop to admire the skill and to ponder the significance.

The opening quotation in The Muralist is
Eleanor's failure to force her husband to admit more refugees remained her deepest regret at the end of her life.
-Doris Kearns Goodwin

The historical novel deals with the unwillingness of the world to accept Jewish refugees from Europe.
"Not enough jobs", "might be spies or communists", "it's not our problem" were commonly voiced
sentiments at the time.  As we face another era of mass human displacement, these same words are being repeated.
Rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish quarter of Paris, displays another piece of "wall art."  French Jews were deported from this neighbourhood during WW2 and the street was the site of a terrorist bombing in 1982.
Refugees and their resettlement seem to be an almost insurmountable problem. Canada has promised to accept 25,000 and already some provincial and municipal leaders are shaking their heads. We live in one of the most prosperous and underpopulated countries in the world. We gladly open our doors to wealthy immigrants and then complain about their relative affluence. On Sunday, I listened to a speaker from the United Church of Canada explain the selection and sponsorship process for refugees. Members of our community will be helping a Syrian family to live in our neighbourhood.

Last night, my small reading/discussion group talked about "little acts of welcome and assistance."
None of us has the power to end a civil war on the other side of the world nor to eliminate terrorism but we each have some small skill that might be of use in the resettlement process.
The Mexican artists are some of the most skilled muralists.
I am still reading The Muralist but I suspect that the ending will be a sad one as there was no country willing to accept the Jewish refugees. Hopefully, seventy years later, we have learned to look beyond our own interests, suspicions and fears and to open our country to those who need a safe place to live.


  1. I wonder, too, when I hear the rhetoric against bringing in Syrian refugees, how the world can have forgotten the Holocaust. Have we learned so little? I'm pleased that our local church is also bringing in a refugee family. The Muralist sounds like a thought-provoking book.

    1. A rich and thoughtful post. Honestly, I'm at least as discouraged by the pusillanimity and sheer ugliness being revealed this week as I am upset about the Paris attacks. Good for you and Lorrie, working with your churches to support people in dire need. Christianity at its best.

    2. In Canada, where we live a safe life, it seems that we should share our good fortune. Unfortunately, the nay-sayers seem to be stirring up fear. The refugees are not leaving their homes through choice but to escape an even worse situation than we saw in Paris Friday night.
      I hope that reasonable people prevail and that the resettlement goes off without unnecessary problems.


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