A Novel

Paperback - 2012
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Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award Winner of the Grand Prix RTL-Lire Shortlisted for the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie
Longlisted for Canada Reads 2015

At ten years old, Kim Th#65533;y 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 #65533;migr#65533; on a boat to an unknown future: her own story fictionalized and crafted into a stunning novel.

The novel's title, Ru , has meaning in both Kim's native and adoptive languages: in Vietnamese, ru is a lullaby; in French, a stream. And it provides the perfect name for this slim yet potent novel. With prose that soothes and sings, Ru weaves through time, flows and transports: a river of sensuous memories gathering power. It's a classic immigrant story told in a breathtaking new way.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2012.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9781608198986
Characteristics: 141 p. ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Fischman, Sheila - Translator


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Jul 02, 2017

There is so much to unpack in this memoir: leaving, loss, learning. The author remembers her childhood in Vietnam and later in Canada, interspersed with stories of her adult years in both countries. She doesn't attempt to reconcile or justify these recollections. Most of the stories are fragments, unapologetically leaving out beginnings and endings, creating more questions than providing answers.

Mar 26, 2017

The format of very brief vignettes on a single page with much white space made me think of a photo album. As each snapshot captured a moment in time of the first-person narrator’s life in Viet Nam, in a Malaysian refugee camp, and as an immigrant to Montreal, Canada, I could see the cruelty, misery and the beauty. But for me the erratic sequencing and the jumbled memories did not gel as a whole picture. Although Thuy’s prose is poetically lyrical with dramatic imagery, a quality that usually endears a book to me, it wasn’t enough.

Jul 07, 2016

Ru is my 2nd 2015 Canada Reads book and it deserved the standing and appreciation it received in that venue. More like a memoir than a novel, it was 'simply poetic.' This was a very different style of describing one's life experiences, but I liked the brevity, short chapters and once I settled into the style was able to follow the thread of continuity.

Mar 01, 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.

Feb 24, 2016

This translation has the feel of the original author. It exposes experiences that few, with any luck, will experience.

Interviews of Kim Thúy impress you with her ability to rise above events that could have crushed her spirit.

Aug 27, 2015

Winner in the 2015 "Canada Reads" competition held annually by the CBC. This book is designated as a novel, although it seems more like a personal memoir. Moreover, it reads very much as if the author had kept a diary over many years of a chaotic life in Viet Nam, Malaysia, Canada and Thailand, and had at some point dropped all the pages, gathered most of them up and not bothered to sort them out in their original sequence. It was originally written in French and brilliantly translated by Shiela Fishman into English, with the exquisite prose intact -- surely a remarkable achievement in itself.
I found it to be very restrained and at times almost detached in its depiction of some truly horrific experiences; the author chose to use beautiful, elegant, almost poetic language rather than shocking the reader in a direct manner. That may have been a form of the well known coping mechanism of people who are subjected to extreme emotional or physical trauma -- stepping out of their own body and personality and addressing the situation as if they were outside observers.

Aug 17, 2015

I did not like the stream of consciousness structure, memories moving back and forth in time. I know it's just personal taste, but I prefer some momentum and plot. Interesting, though, and lyrical, especially in the original French.

What was the purpose of this book? Was it to inform us about her experience as a refugee? If so, she did not achieve this goal. As a stream of consciousness/quasi poetry work it is interesting and thought provoking but it is not a novel by my definition and not the type of book I enjoy.

Jul 06, 2015

An extremely quick and rewarding read. There's a reason you keep seeing "beautiful" in the reviews, because this book truly is beautiful. Told in vignettes in no particular order, with lots of space for interpretation and questions, with incredibly detailed and yet transient memories… Definitely touched very deeply on an immigrant's experience in Canada, and yet I felt as though it was a brushstroke of a depiction rather than a full painting. Impressive translation — still lush and fluid in English.

PoMoLibrary Jun 13, 2015

From Brittany, our 2015 Summer Reading Club member:
It shows both Vietnam and the escape to Quebec in vignettes. Very interesting.

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Aug 17, 2015

During our first winters, we didn’t know that every garment had its season, that we mustn’t simply wear all the clothes we owned. When we were cold, without discriminating, without knowing the different categories, we would put one garment over another, layer by layer, like the homeless.

Aug 17, 2015

Like Canada, Vietnam had its own two solitudes. The language of North Vietnam had developed in accordance with its political, social and economic situation at the time, with words to describe how to shoot down an airplane with a machine gun set up on a roof, how to use monosodium glutamate to make blood clot more quickly, how to spot the shelters when the sirens go off. Meanwhile, the language of the South had created words to express the sensation of Coca-Cola bubbles on the tongue, terms for naming spies, rebels, Communist sympathizers on the streets of the South, names to designate the children born from wild nights with GIs.

Aug 17, 2015

When Marie-France, my teacher in Granby, asked me to describe my breakfast, I told her: soup, vermicelli, pork. She asked me again, more than once, miming waking up, rubbing her eyes and stretching. But my reply was the same, with a slight variation: rice instead of vermicelli. The other Vietnamese children gave similar descriptions. She called home then to check the accuracy of our answers with our parents. As time went on, we no longer started our day with soup and rice. To this day, I haven’t found a substitute.


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