Set in the tea estates of Sri Lanka, Refuge evokes the plight of the downtrodden Tamil labourers working on them. Their lives are a sharp contrast to the lives of the urbane, whisky-drinking managers in their clubs and mansions. Slender, doe-eyed Valliamma, a Tamil labourer on one plantation, is in love with Soma, a Sinhala fish vendor and the father of her illegitimate son. Valliamma is exploited by individuals, a brutal social and economic system and, ultimately, the politics of a state. Her fate symbolizes the dilemma and tragedy of her community, the so-called Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka.
Struggling for a place in the land of her birth and that of her child, caught between issues of race and language, Valliamma is denied the shelter and refuge she seeks there. The novel ends as a journey begins, once more in search of refuge. This sensitive, disturbing novel compels one's concern for individual human tragedies being played out in Sri Lanka .