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Ru [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Kim Thuy , Sheila Fischman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 17 2012
A runaway bestseller in Quebec, with foreign rights sold to 15 countries around the world, Kim Thúy's Governor General's Literary Award-winning Ru is a lullaby for 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, money. Kim Thúy'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 sons, 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.

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Heather’s Pick
Winner 2011 – Grand prix littéraire Archambault
Winner 2011 – Mondello Prize for Multiculturalism
Winner 2010 – Prix du Grand Public Salon du livre––Essai/Livre pratique
Winner 2010 – Governor General’s Award for Fiction (French-language)
Winner 2010 – Grand Prix RTL-Lire at the Salon du livre de Paris
Shortlist 2012 - Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlist 2012 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation
LONGLISTED 2013 – Man Asian Literary Prize
LONGLISTED 2014 – International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

"This is an exemplary autobiographical novel. Never is there the slightest hint of narcissism or self-pity. The major events in the fall of Vietnam are painted in delicate strokes, through the daily existence of a woman who has to reinvent herself elsewhere. A tragic journey described in a keen, sensitive and perfectly understated voice."
—Governor General's Literary Award jury citation

“Gloriously, passionately, delicately unique….  A remarkable book; one that has well-earned every note of praise it has received.”
The Chronicle Journal
“Powerful and engaging.... In short entries that read lyrically and poetically—but also powerfully, pungently, and yet gently, dispassionately—Ru blends politics and history, celebration and violence within a young girl’s imaginative experience…. [I]ts hybrid and enchanted voice conjur[es] a love song out of chaos and pain, singing and rilling its simplicities.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“In a series of vignettes which extend from wartime Vietnam to the hospitable precincts of Quebec, Kim Thúy writes with equal delicacy and candor about a childhood marked by horrifying brutality, and the pleasures of ordinary peace. A brave and moving book, bringing lucid insight both to the costs of violence, and elusive processes of psychic survival.”
—Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation

About the Author

KIM THÚY has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. She currently lives in Montreal where she devotes herself to writing.

Sheila Fischman is the award-winning translator of some 150 contemporary novels from Quebec. In 2008 she was awarded the Molson Prize in the Arts. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec. She lives in Montreal.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER
Kim Thuy is a writer based in Montreal. Ru, her first novel, won the Governor General's Literary Award in its original French.

Ru is an autobiographical novel that recounts the author's flight as a refugee from Vietnam to Quebec as a young girl, and the culture shocks she experiences as she adjusts to her new homeland.

It is somewhat misleading to label this book a novel, because it is really halfway between a novel - a sustained linear narrative - and poetry - a collection of insightful, finely-crafted and evocative images.

This beautiful book - the hardcover edition is as attractive physically as is the writing - opens with the explanation that "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."

And this double-meaning is in fact very appropriate for this book which flows between cultures, between times, between emotions.

The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus observed that "you cannot step in the same river twice" - in other words, there is no being, only becoming - a sentiment conveyed perfectly in this volume.

Thuy recounts the flow from a family life of privilege in Saigon to misery as refugees, the harbinger of impending change sensed by her mother:

"My mother waged her first battles later, without sorrow. She went to work for the first time at the age of thirty-four, first as a cleaning lady, then at jobs in plants, factories, restaurants. Before, in the life that she had lost, she was the eldest daughter of her prefect father. All she did was settle arguments between the French-food chef and the Vietnamese-food chef in the family courtyard (...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WINNER OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD! June 7 2013
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kim Thuy's Ru won The Governor General's Award for Fiction and was Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Ru was exquisitely translated by the award-winning Sheila Fischman.

In Vietnamese Ru means lullaby. In French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow of tears, blood and money. This book is an autobiographical novel.

The young girl is the narrator of this story. Her name is Nguyen An Tinh with a dot under the i. The name means "peaceful Interior" in Vietnamese. Her mother has the same name but without the dot and her name means "peaceful environment". The History of Vietnam flung the accents of their names into the water, when it took her and her family across the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago. The young girl was born during the Tet Offensive in 1968, as the child of an upper class family in Saigon. When she was ten years old, she and her family emigrated out of Vietnam via Malaysian refugee camps, then boarding a boat to Canada. They arrived at Mirabel Airport in Quebec. She spoke very little. She is mute. On the boat, she and her family learned how to travel very light. One gentleman had no luggage, not even a small bag with warm clothes. He had on everything he owned. He had diamonds embedded in his molars, gold on his teeth and American dollars stuffed in his anus. Women had American dollars stuffed in their sanitary napkins. She had an acrylic bracelet, pink like the gums of the dental plate it had been made from, filled with diamonds. Her parents had also put diamonds in the collars of her brothers' shirts.

It is in Quebec, at the Sainte-Famille elementary school that a teacher named Jeanne embraced her nine Vietnamese students. The young girl called the teacher "our good fairy".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars R April 13 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book was coherent and telling the story of the protagonist in a poetic style and at the same time letting me have an insight into the life of a family coming to Canada from Vietnam.

There is nothing in the book I disliked and I especially liked her style of writing, which flowed and was poetic.

I would recommend it to readers of any age, who enjoy lyrical writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "We must never regret what we left behind..." Sept. 12 2014
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kim Thuy's slim volume, RU, is as much a novel as a fictionalized memoir and a reflection on the heroine's childhood in Vietnam, her escape as a ten-year-old with the boat people... and, via refugee camps in Malaysia, eventually, finding something like a home in Quebec... Like her heroine, she was born in Saigon during the Tet Offensive when circumstances for her family changed forever - from wealthy and respected Saigon family to people on the run without anything. She returned many years later to visit Vietnam where local people didn't recognize her anymore as Vietnamese: she "no longer had their frailty, their uncertainty, their fears."

Towards the end of the book, looking back on her earlier life, the narrator muses "...after only thirty years I already recognize our old selves only through fragments, through scars, through glimmers of light." It is these fragments, the scars and the glimmers of light that Kim Thuy has made the central theme of her book. Unusual in structure and beautifully, often lyrically written, the author's loosely connected vignettes paint an impressionistic, yet intimate portrait of the heroine, her family, her country and what it means to feel connected and uprooted at the same time. Evocative in her depiction of people and places, recalling memories and bringing out associations across time and space, the heroine recounts events and circumstances, essential or negligible, sometimes stories within stories. Like the workings of memory in our brains, nothing is told chronologically; much is only hinted at and, on superficial reading, not developed in depth. Connections between vignettes often hinge on one thought, one colour, one expression...
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel
Very personal and captivating novel. The simple writing style makes it even more powerful and touching. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Lyrical and poetic. Lovely to read.
Published 1 month ago by I.K.
1.0 out of 5 stars Ru, by Kim Thuy
I did not like the format. Her memories are like many other none writers', who were also refugees. When one recalls an episode it is written down not following any time period, or... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catheline Nemeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
You feel as though you are reading Kim's diary. This is an easy read and an amazing story which parallels her own life experience.
Published 8 months ago by Erin
4.0 out of 5 stars Ru
Story Description:

Random House of Canada|September 6, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-307-35970-4

Ru. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Louise Jolly
3.0 out of 5 stars recieved a older copy
have not read it yet but want to send this review so here it goes I haven't read it all yet.
Published 17 months ago by Terry
4.0 out of 5 stars An immigrant's story that runs so true
I enjoyed the story very much. I could relate to much of it, having lived in Montreal in the 70's as well as in Vietnam 3 years ago for a 6 week contract. Read more
Published 17 months ago by JEK
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I absolutely loved this book. I wish that it had been longer, though. I'm sure there were a lot more stories that she could have added about her escape from Saigon and subsequent... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Cheryl Pratt
5.0 out of 5 stars A winner
This book opens one"s eyes and hearts to the plight of our Vietnamese immigrants. It would be a perfect gift to those who moan about their supposed hardships. Read more
Published 18 months ago by P. Anastasiades
3.0 out of 5 stars This is more like a book of poetry.
The book is beautifully written, but for me it merely scratched the surface of the story. I wanted to hear more details. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ev
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