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Ru by Kim Thuy

Ru (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Kim Thuy, Sheila Fischman (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
267None42,469 (3.83)84
Authors:Kim Thuy
Other authors:Sheila Fischman (Translator)
Info:Vintage Canada (2012), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle books
Tags:Canadian Literature, Vietnam, boat people, Quebec, immigration, memoir

Work details

Ru by Kim Thúy (2009)

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» See also 84 mentions

English (18)  French (6)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Ru by Kim Thuy is a compilation of vignettes where each page is a separate story, complete within itself, telling of the stress of living under the communists in Viet Nam, the horrors of escaping by boat, the filth and hopelessness of the refugee camp that they found themselves in, and the many adjustments they had to make as a family and as individuals to fit into their new life in Canada.

This is not a linear story, but as the reader continues through the book, it’s beautiful, lyrical writing paints a clear picture of both this woman’s experiences and her inner feelings. There is a dream-like style to the writing and at times I felt like I was intruding on a very personal vision.

Ru is a story about the emigrant experience and with it’s original perspective it was very easy to forget that this is a novel not a true memoir. It is also very easy to conclude that the author drew on her own experiences to create this very intimate account. I believe that this will be a book that stays with me, and that these small stories told with grace and dignity will often be recalled. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jan 8, 2014 |
Kim Thuy won the 2010 Governor General's Award for her first book, Ru: A Novel. Although the book is styled a novel, it is based on Thuy's own experience and memories. When she was 10 years old, she and her family fled Vietnam on a boat that took them to a refugee camp in Malaysia, eventually ending up in Montreal.

This is a gorgeous book. It's written in brief vignettes traveling back and forth in time and from place to place to finally piece together a picture of identities and a family split asunder which emerge into a new life. Many of the vignettes are prose poems (and great credit must also be given to the translator of the English edition) that capture fleeting moments:

After the old lady died, I would go every Sunday to a lotus pond in a suburb of Hanoi where there were always two or three women with bent backs and trembling hands, sitting in a small round boat, using a stick to move across the water and drop tea leaves into open lotus blossoms. They would come back the next day to collect them one by one before the petals faded, after the captive tea leaves had absorbed the scent of the pistils during the night. They told me that every one of those tea leaves preserved the soul of the short-lived flowers.

An interview with Kim Thuy on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2012/11/24/165563101/a-refugees-multilayered-experience-in-ru ( )
  janeajones | Nov 21, 2013 |
Ru is a lyrical exploration of the experience of a Vietnamese girl who flees with her family to Malaysia, then Canada. She grows up, marries and has two children, and eventually returns to Vietnam. The narrator - a semi-portrait of the author - tells her stories in a series of short vignettes that move back and forth in time. The prose is crystalline and evocative - the central idea and strong images found in each vignette matter more than a linear plot. However, connections frequently appear - between the past and present, between disparate cultures, between strangers and friends and enemies. Because of the structure, sometimes it’s a bit hard to place characters and keep all the relationships straight but this contributes to the idea of everything being ephemeral, which occurs frequently throughout the book. - the family’s solid life in Vietnam is shattered and from then on their living conditions are temporary and strange. As the narrator grows up she sees everything in this light - possessions, lovers, her identity. Her relationship with her sons weighs her down for better or worse. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Jun 23, 2013 |
A book so lyrical it is like reading a song. Hauntingly beautiful and emotional story about the experiences of a Vietnamese family escape by boat and later settlement in Canada. ( )
  CarterPJ | May 14, 2013 |
So...we lost power for over 24 hours (super storm sandy) and i decided to re-read this beautiful novel.

Kim Thúy's novel, Ru was shortlisted for this year's Giller Award. Released in its original French in 2010, it won the French-language Governor-General’s Award that same year, and has secured foreign rights in 15 countries. (Though according to a rep at Random House Canada, I have been told a U.S. publication date has not been established.) The English translation has been crafted beautifully by Sheila Fischman. While I was reading, I sensed the tenderness and integrity Fischman brought to this project. (But I would now like to read Ru in French!)

Ru is a fictional memoir told in beautiful vignettes that weave us through An Tinh's escape from Vietnam to her time in a Malaysian refugee camp to her new life in Canada. The novel begins with a note on the meaning of ru. In French, it denotes a small stream or a flow – of water, blood, tears or almost anything else. In Vietnamese, ru means a lullaby.

The opening that follows, gives us a good idea of what's in store:

I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of the machine guns.

I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the two million soldiers deployed and scattered through the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two.

I was born in the shadow of skies adorned with fireworks, decorated with garlands of light, shot through with rockets and missiles. The purpose of my birth was to replace lives that had been lost. My life’s duty was to prolong that of my mother.

I love the form this book takes and feel that the way Thúy tells us this story really captures how we remember events from the past. Our recollections help form the big picture but it's the snippets of memory, of moments along the way, that piece together like a puzzle and create the full picture of a life. even in its entirety life can be messy but whole, disjointed and connected at the same time. but from the chaos and uncertainty, physical and moral strength and endurance can emerge and sustain us.

Thúy did a Q & A with CBC Books. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
To risk all on the sum of its parts might seem dangerous, but the material’s innate truth justifies its author’s faith and through skilful assembly a whistle-clean story emerges. And yet, the story matters less than the raw acceptance of its moments, often brutal, occasionally full of beauty, the unexpected glimpses recounted without judgement or sentimentality of a world we know only through hearsay.
Thúy's impressionistic approach means the book can feel rudderless, but the stories are poetic and powerful.
added by lkernagh | editThe Guardian, James Smart (Jun 12, 2012)
Subtlety of voice and effect is Thúy’s strongest hand. Never is there a sense of false drama or manipulation of pain for easy emotional gain. In strictly human terms, the book’s pivotal balance between endurance and despair is delicately, beautifully realized.
Despite some moments of digression and occasional instances of thematic overreach, Ru is a poetic and highly individual exploration of what it can mean to straddle multiple cultures and identities simultaneously.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kim Thúyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fischman, SheilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In French, ru means a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge -- of tears, of blood, of money. In Vietnamese, ru means a lullaby, to lull.
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Aux gens du pays.
First words
Je suis venue au monde pendant l'offensive du Têt, aux premiers jours de la nouvelle année du Singe, lorsque les longues chaînes de pétards accrochées devant les maisons explosaient en polyphonie avec le son des mitraillettes.
I came into the world during the Tet offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of machine guns.
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
"la vie est un combat où la tristesse entraine la défaite"
"j'avais oublié que l'amour vient de la tête et non pas du coeur"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Ru: In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow - of tears, blood, money.

Ru follows the flow of a life on the tides of unrest and on to more peaceful waters. In vignettes of exquisite clarity, sharp observation and sly wit, we are carried along on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new life in Quebec. There, the young girl feels the embrace of a new community.

As an adult, the waters become rough again: now a mother of two, she must learn to shape her love around the younger boy's autism. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a novel that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.
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At ten years old, Kim Thy fled Vietnam on a boat with her family, leaving behind a grand house and the many less tangible riches of their home country: the ponds of lotus blossoms, the songs of soup-vendors. The family arrived in Quebec, where they found clothes at the flea market, and mattresses with actual fleas. Kim learned French and English, and as she grew older, seized what opportunities an immigrant could; she put herself through school picking vegetables and sewing clothes, worked as a lawyer and interpreter, and later as a restaurateur. She was married and a mother when the urge to write struck her, and she found herself scribbling words at every opportunity - pulling out her notebook at stoplights and missing the change to green. The story emerging was one of a Vietnamese emigre on a boat to an unknown future: her own story fictionalized and crafted into a stunning novel.… (more)

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