The Retreat

Publisher: Emblem Editions
Bestselling novelist David Bergen follows his Scotiabank Giller Prize—winning The Time in Between with a haunting novel about the clash of generations — and cultures.

In 1973, outside of Kenora, Ontario, Raymond Seymour, an eighteen-year-old Ojibway boy, is taken by a local policeman to a remote island and left for dead.

A year later, the Byrd family arrives in Kenora. They have come to stay at “the Retreat,” a commune run by the self-styled guru Doctor Amos. The Doctor is an enigmatic man who spouts bewildering truisms, and who bathes naked every morning in the pond at the edge of the Retreat while young Everett Byrd watches from the bushes. Lizzy, the eldest of the Byrd children, cares for her younger brothers Fish and William, and longs for what she cannot find at the Retreat. When Lizzy meets Raymond, everything changes, and Lizzy comes to understand the real difference between Raymond’s world and her own. A tragedy and a love story, the novel moves towards a conclusion that is both astonishing and heartbreaking.

Set during the summer of the Ojibway occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora, The Retreat is a finely nuanced, deeply felt novel that tells the story of the complicated love between a white girl and a native boy, and of a family on the verge of splintering forever. It is also a story of the bond between two brothers who were separated in childhood, and whose lives and fates intertwine ten years later.

A brilliant portrait of a time and a place, The Retreat confirms Bergen’s reputation as one of the country’s most gifted and compelling writers.

From the Hardcover edition.


In 1964, at the age of ten, Nelson Seymour was taken from his grandmother’s house on the reserve near Kenora and placed with a Mennonite family in a small town called Lesser, south of Winnipeg. A white man and a white woman came to the reserve in a blue Ford Galaxy looking for two brothers, Raymond and Nelson, but...
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“Bergen’s characters move and breathe, demonstrating the delicate balance between hope and despair, salvation and damnation.”
Toronto Star

“David Bergen is a master of taut, spare prose that’s both erotic and hypnotic. . . .”
— Miriam Toews

“Bergen’s novels are marvels of spare prose and weighty emotion.”
Saturday Night

“The writing of Winnipeg's David Bergen, who won a host of prizes including the Giller for his last novel, The Time in Between, sometimes gets compared to that of Cormac McCarthy; taut, psychological fiction that floats just above a kind of menacing nihilism. His new novel, The Retreat, keeps to the pattern.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Paired with chirping crickets and a porch-side perch, the finely wrought prose and bucolic setting make for a perfect early-fall-evening companion.”
Toronto Life

“The Giller Prize–winner’s latest book is a gripping tale that leaves the reader heavy-hearted yet driven to turn the page.”
Canadian Living

“Throughout the story, the spare writing lends an atmosphere of foreboding, even dread, that makes for compelling reading.”
Edmonton Journal.

The Retreat is a powerful and engrossing novel, further proof that the late-blooming Bergen is now one of Canada's very best writers.”
— Montreal Gazette

“…the novel speeds along in [Bergen’s] characteristically exquisite prose.”
The Walrus

“Bergen excels at creating dramatic scenes of survival. . . . A meaningful and significant work.”
Globe and Mail

“Bergen makes every word count.”
Ottawa Citizen

From the Hardcover edition.