From the hills of Virginia to the backroads of Oklahoma, City of Refuge traces one family to the event that haunts James his whole life.
James Matthews is a product of his family and the small Oklahoma town where he has lived his entire life. But, more than that, he is a product of death, specifically the death of the beloved older brother who drowned in the local lake when James was ten years old.
City of Refuge chronicles the life of James Matthews for nearly forty years as he tries to reclaim a life that has been scarred by death. Tragedy reshapes his family and leaves James isolated and unable to break through the walls of his own design. At nineteen he seeks solace in a fantasy world and easy sex. At 30, he turns even further inward, neglecting his wife and his career. At 40, he is broken and deeply afraid of passing his despair onto another generation.
Along the way, he crosses paths with his increasingly dysfunctional family and a community that is doing its best to stave off its own demise in some of the most bizarre ways possible (donkey basketball, anyone).