Book: Ru

There is beauty in the written word. Winner of the governor general’s literary award, this novel by Kim Thuy tells her story of her life in Vietnam before she become a refugee and begins a new life in Quebec. It follows her story through a series of vignettes, the story jumps from memory to memory in her life, but it’s simple to piece together and each memory flows easily, almost seamlessly to the next. A real beauty to read.



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.

There are many nuggets of wisdom contained in this book, values and opinions that resound with my Asian heritage.

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.

At the same time, it really tells of the experience some Vietnamese went through. It’s real, raw emotion that comes through the pages. The refugee camps, the upheaval in Vietnam, the settling in Quebec, a new country, a new culture. Each memory helps us to understand the author’s life, it brings life to things we could never experience, or come close to understanding. Thought-provoking and sometimes tear inducing.

When I meet young girls in Montreal or elsewhere who injure their bodies intentionally, deliberately, who want permanent scars to be drawn on their skin, I can’t help secretly wishing they could meet other young girls whose permanent scars are so deep they’re invisible to the naked eye. I would like to seat them face to face and hear them make comparisons between a wanted scar and an inflicted scar, one that’s paid for, the other that pays off, one visible, the other impenetrable, one inordinately sensitive, the other unfathomable, one drawn, the other misshapen.

I really enjoyed how this book was presented. It really added to the flow of the story, to the flow of the words on the page. I think the summary at the back of book really sums up my feelings and thoughts about the book.

Ru moves seamlessly between past and present, beauty and brutality, comfort and comedy, sorrow and sensuality. It’s a classic immigrant story told in a breathtaking way: singing itself into a dream, flowing and gathering power.

One Response to “Book: Ru”
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  1. […] it was very powerfully written and it contrasted a great deal with the book I read before it, Ru. Where there was beauty in words before, now I felt the intensity of the written word and felt the […]

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