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Ru by Kim Thuy
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Ru (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Kim Thuy, Sheila Fischman (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4574422,782 (3.83)255
Member:vancouverdeb
Title:Ru
Authors:Kim Thuy
Other authors:Sheila Fischman (Translator)
Info:Vintage Canada (2012), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle books
Rating:****
Tags:Canadian Literature, Vietnam, boat people, Quebec, immigration, memoir

Work details

Ru by Kim Thúy (2009)

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» See also 255 mentions

English (32)  French (6)  Swedish (4)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Wow. Beautiful.
An elegiac and lyrical autobiographical novel of a family that fled Vietnam in the 1970s. They arrived in Canada, via Malaysian refugee camps, and eventually settled in Quebec.

The story is prefaced with an explanation. "In French, 'ru' means a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge--of tears, of blood, of money. In Vietnamese, 'ru' means a lullably, to lull.

The narrator was ten years old when 'the History of Vietnam' ended her "role as an extension of my mother." Her name was very similar to her mother's, because she was the sequel to her, she would continue her story. But the events changed their own planned futures and histories. She tells their story from her perspective thirty years later, as a Canadian immigrant who had to adapt to a new country, new languages, new customs. She had to learn how to accommodate these new layers of being-ness within her own identity.

It is not a straight linear narration, but neither does it alway jump back and forth between discrete episodes of time. Instead she shares her memories as part of the flow of her present and past life. Woven throughout is an appreciation of the power and love of family, of ancestors and descendants.

The tale occasionally started to stray toward the territory of sentimentality but fortunately veered away before arrival. It does not dwell or revel in horrors and atrocities. It is simple, yet elegant, and quietly inspiring.

It won Canada's Governor General's Award for French-language fiction last year, and has since won other international awards. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
What a powerful little story. Every immigrant will be able to relate to this novel which describes a Vietnamese Boat Person's move to Canada and settling down. It is a poignant description of her childhood and the stark contrast between the life in Vietnam and the new life in Canada.

It is when she goes back to Vienam that she realizes that "the American dream had made me believe I could have everything." She felt the American dream had made her "weightier, more substantial."

Every page in the book is philosophical. One example is the vignette where in talking about one of the persons in her boat who did not make it, Thuy says, "He'd retraced his steps to fetch the gold taels he'd hidden in the boat's fuel tank. Perhaps the taels made him sink, perhaps they were too heavy to carry. Or else the current swallowed him as punishment for looking back, or to remind us that we must never regret what we've left behind."

I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. ( )
  Writermala | Mar 1, 2016 |
I found parts of this book very interesting, The format was to scattered for me to really enjoy. ( )
  Smits | Feb 27, 2016 |
This is a short, poetic book about the author’s journey through life. She tells us about her childhood in Saigon, coming to Quebec with the boat people from Vietnam at ten years old, her family.

At times I thoroughly enjoyed the way she made certain things come alive; for example “.. intensely craving a salad of green papaya with bird chilies that tore your mouth apart, that burned your lips, set fire to your heart.” p.121.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. ( )
  jenn88 | Feb 14, 2016 |
Ru collects short fictional reminiscences by Kim Thuy, who was born in Saigon, survived the war, and emigrated to Quebec in 1979. The pieces are loosely connected, and this 140 or so page book is moving and lyrical. Protagonist An Tinh and her family originally are upper middle class in Saigon, with servants and chefs, but lose it all when the communists arrive. Sewing diamonds into clothes, they buy escape in a dark boat hold, with hundreds of others, to a muddy, ramshackle refugee camp in Malaysia. The living conditions will have you counting your blessings.

“My parents often remind my brothers and me that they won’t have any money for us to inherit, but I think they’ve already passed on to us the wealth of their memories, allowing us to grasp the beauty of a flowering wisteria, the delicacy of a word, the power of wonder. Even more, they’ve given us feet for walking to our dreams, to infinity. Which may be enough baggage to continue our journey on our own. Otherwise, we would pointlessly clutter our path with possessions to transport, to insure, to take care of.”

Tinh develops from mute fear in so-different Quebec, shadowing a schoolfriend, to someone who, upon returning to Vietnam, is told by a waiter that she cannot really be Vietnamese, essentially because she has grown too Western and sure of herself. The key is to endure - her mother passes onto her a Saigon proverb: "Life is a struggle in which sorrow leads to defeat.”

Some readers have seen structural problems with the loose connections, and questioned the lack of character depth. For me, neither of these detracted from the strong writing and affecting story, as we follow An Linh and her family and acquaintances from her childhood ruin to a new country and hope.

“I moved forward in the trace of their footsteps as in a waking dream where the scent of a newly blown poppy is no longer a perfume but a blossoming: where the deep red of a maple leaf in autumn is no longer a colour but a grace; where a country is no longer a place but a lullaby.” ( )
3 vote jnwelch | Jan 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (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.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kim Thúyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fischman, SheilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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.
Dedication
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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.
Quotations
"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"
We often forget about the existence of all those women who carried Vietnam on their backs while their husbands and sons carried weapons on theirs. We forget them because under their cone-shaped hats they did not look up at the sky...Those women let their sadness grow in the chambers of their hearts. They were so weighed down by all of their grief that they couldn't pull themselves up, couldn't straighten their hunched backs, bowed under the weight of their sorrow. When the men emerged from the jungle and started to walk again along the earthen dikes around their rice fields, the women continued to bear the weight of Vietnam's audible history on their backs. Very often they passed away under that weight, in silence.
But the young waiter reminded me that I couldn't have everything, that I no longer had the right to declare I was Vietnamese because I no longer had their fragility, their uncertainty, their fears. And he was right to remind me.
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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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A book of rare beauty: Ru is a lullaby of Vietnam and a love letter to a new homeland. Ru: In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow - of tears, blood, and money. Kim Thuy's Ru is literature at its most crystalline: 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, and revels in the chance to be part of the American Dream. 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 book that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.… (more)

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