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A lovely, lyrical story of changes in riches and situation. The protagonist goes from living a wealthy life in Vietnam, to being a refugee, to finding herself in another land where customs, language and life styles differed from everything she was familiar with.
These vignettes show resiliency, human spirit and courage. Lovely story.
Touchant et frappant. Ce récit d'une jeune réfugiée vietnamienne et de ses souvenirs du Vietnam et d'ici sont parfois cocasses parfois tellement cruels et tristes. Ce roman nous ouvre la réalité sur des concepts dont on ne pourrait même pas imaginer l'ampleur.
"Ru" by Kim Thuy is a novel in fragmentary form. Brief chapters or vignettes look back on the life of a woman: from affluent to refugee to immigrant. At times, I was not sure exactly what was meant or even what was happening. Yet, being more evocative than detailed, Thuy creates an impression of events and experiences that seem all the more real. Very good read.
If this is so beautifully written in translation, then it must really sing in its original French! This is a poignant story from riches to refugee to resettlement. It unfolds in fragments, dreamlike, each connected to the last by a single thread or idea. By the end we readers experience An Tinh’s story (which is probably the author’s as well), with all its hardships and it beauty: we experience her story through poetry. It is at once both removed from the experience of the horror of war and right in the midst of it. Worth one or more reads.
I found this fictionalized memoir, written in little snatches with only the vaguest chronology, to be quite moving. The word 'ru' means lullaby in vietnamese, and represents the life in Vietnam as seen through a child's eyes - carefree and privileged, lulling all into a false sense of security. In french 'ru' means a small stream or flow, which is what we follow as Nguyen An Tinh and her family flee to become part of the great wave of boat people to make their way to Canada and other safe countries. Through Thuy's spare, and dreamy, writing we follow the course of An Tinh's life as she comes to terms with her Vietnam heritage and the Canadian culture overlay she must live with. Not feeling truly one or the other, she must meld the two into something that reflects who she is. I got the sense that she was not really successful, and that at the end she remains outside of life, an observer that might never find her identity. I enjoyed this book for the feel of the story, for the sense of ru that came with the narrative. The disjointed chronology did not bother me, nor did the vague hints of An Tinh's life. If you want action with a beginning, middle and end, and things spelled out for you, this is not the book for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Brittany, our 2015 Summer Reading Club member:
It shows both Vietnam and the escape to Quebec in vignettes. Very interesting.
Winner of the 2015 Canada Reads Debate.
A beautifully written account on what an immigrants experience in Canada is like.
A poetic, fictional memoir. Evocative and affecting; "Ru" flows like the stream and lullaby that it is named for.
This book is part of Amnesty International's book club - recommended reading October 2014.
A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: "A poetic, short novel which follows Ru from Saigon, to a Malaysian refugee camp, and on to a new life in Quebec. Beautifully written and absorbing."
I wanted to like this slim, autobiographic volume, but I did not. The prose verges on the precious and in terms of content, there are more interesting stories than the unexamined pursuit of the American dream.
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. 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.
beautifully written story of an immigrant experience in Montreal
August 2013 Fiction A to Z newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=667162