Ru by Kim ThuyRu by Kim Thuysticker-burst


byKim ThuyTranslated bySheila Fischman

Paperback | September 6, 2012

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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.

Born in Saigon in 1968, Kim Thúy left Vietman with the boat people at the age of ten and settled with her family in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner and food commentator on radio and television. She lives in Montreal and devotes herself to writing.Sheila Fi...
Title:RuFormat:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 7.99 × 5.32 × 0.49 inPublished:September 6, 2012Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307359719

ISBN - 13:9780307359711

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning Stunning language and story.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This was more like reading short stories/flashbacks. RU translated in Vietnamese means lullaby. This was a poetic and beautiful short narrative with some very sad moments in the life of Ru, a young girl, who immigrated from Vietnam to Canada.
Date published: 2017-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful Book I read this novel in my second year english class in university along with the other Canada reads books in that year. It was a really touching and beautifully written novel.
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful If you like beautiful prose, this book is for you.
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lovely and Poetic I enjoyed this rather quick read. The poetic execution was wonderful and supplied strong visuals.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lovely; Offers a Glimpse Into a Life Many Readers Never Experienced This was a poetic, simple, beautiful read. It wasn't filled with unnecessary plot fillers or loads of drama, it was merely a recounting or telling of a young woman's past life and her journey to find better times. It offers a glimpse into a life of someone living in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive/Vietnam War, something a person like me, a young Canadian, has never experienced.
Date published: 2016-12-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OKay This book is beautifully written however there are some major flaws
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice but... I understand why people like this book: it's only because they find it exotic. Once you know the reality, it's not that big of a deal.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Strong idea, flawed execution. This book is rather a series of flashbacks and vignettes that coalesce into a vison of the life of a Vietnamese refugee as she goes from being a girl in the oppressive communist regime to a Canadian citizen (though she sees no inherent difference between Canada and America and often refers to living in Canada as an American dream). Though this may sound interesting, the narrative is flawed and sums up into what feels like an octogenarian recounting a long life in a fever dream. Strong ideas from the author but little story to fill them. P.S. At 140 pages, many of which are a paragraph each, it's hardly a novel and more a short story.
Date published: 2016-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lyrical..beautifully composed. Ru draws you in. The story of the narrator unfolds with feeling and insight into the plight of the individuals who help shape her life's journey. Congratulations to the translator for accomplishing a delicate and sensitive task so masterfully.
Date published: 2016-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Geat read I enjoyed the first person acount of this story. I found it to be short but sweet, the writer was able to get her point across with out a lot of fluff but with enough detail I was able to imagen the people and places. Over all a great insite into another life.
Date published: 2015-09-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring - a rumination of things better let go. "The river I stand in is not the river I step in" This short novel is peppered with short and spicy narratives of how this family was done "wrong" in French Canada. To me, I saw a community yearning to embrace, but was constantly rebuffed by a prickly, inflexible family. The wanting to stick with one's own culture further isolated the author and her siblings, alienating them from their new homeland and making it difficult to adapt. Good on Kim Thuy's winning of the Canada Reads Award, but this was a choice made from guilt for the immigrant struggle over any writing ability.
Date published: 2015-05-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ru ... This is the story of a girl's life in wartime Vietnam , her escape as one of the boat people, and her return as an adult. The disturbing life story is told almost as a fable, and is difficult to follow. At times the authour wanders away from the story line, but then regroups. The chapters are not chapters as much as page breaks and the form increases the strange methodology of this author wrting mehods. Yet there is an personal interesting story there.. from the Vietnam War to Canada ..the luck of survival.
Date published: 2015-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Memorble Vivid images that will remain with the reader long after the last page. A strong tribute to the strength of family.
Date published: 2015-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful read This was 'Canada Reads' selection for this year and they picked a winner. I loved it and have already recommended it to a friend and purchased it for a gift. While it is written in prose it is very poetic
Date published: 2015-04-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was just ok. Not my favorite. it held my attention enough to be finish it but wouldn't recommend it overall. I felt like I was never quite sure who she was talking about
Date published: 2015-04-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from This book won an award? Why? I read a wide range of books and always try to keep an open mind but this book is not at all worth reading. Sorry.
Date published: 2015-04-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from did not enjoy No clear direction . Did nnot have any conection to the story.the writer did not engage any feeling in me. The story rambled with no clear direction. Waste of time for me.
Date published: 2015-03-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ru by Kim Thuy Interesting. Thought provoking. I don't care for the style of the writing. It was very whimsical. I prefer a clearer story. It was more like prose. That said, I did enjoy the glimpses into the life of a Vietnamese refugee. This is the third book I have read for this year's Canada Reads. Ru did not meet the "A book to break barriers".
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed I had high hopes for this book but ended up being disappointed. I expected a story that would evoke some kind of emotion from me since twenty-something members of my family were also boat people and came to Quebec/US after the war but the story told in this book came off short and left me feeling indifferent. It could have been more elaborated instead of jumping from one short memory to another. It was a dreadful read for such a thin book.
Date published: 2014-10-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moving 'Ru' moves from beginning to end - The story touches and the author elegantly plays with each word and let's the reader find its meaning while the depth of the story does not become lost. Brilliant!
Date published: 2014-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow I've had this sitting in my library since it won the GG and I hate myself for not having read it sooner. It unfolded like a dream does. Beautiful.
Date published: 2013-12-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ru Story Description: Random House of Canada|September 6, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-307-35970-4 Ru. In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow—of tears, blood, 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 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. My Review: I thoroughly enjoyed the book but felt it was somehow ‘unfinished’. I really would have preferred to of had more detail in each section. I felt it lacked in detail and would have enhanced the story greatly if the author had of delved into the lives and experiences more deeply. I can only imagine though the difficulties and challenges one would encounter being a refugee coming from Vietnam to Quebec. Talk about a culture shock! Trying to raise an autistic child in a completely new world would be difficult at best and would present a myriad of challenges all on their own, challenges we probably couldn’t even begin to fathom, but the author handled it with grace. Overall, Ru was a most enjoyable experience.
Date published: 2013-09-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Troubling and troubled While I will admit that Ru is an important book, and I don't regret reading it, I think that it's importance overshadows how it's told. The story of a Vietnamese family that has fled the fall of their country to the communists is important. Their time as boat people and then adjustment to life in Canada is worth telling. But I think your average reader will look at this and wonder why it is told this way. The writing is beautiful, poetic.I am often suspicious of translations and Sheila Fischman has obviously lingered long on making sure the subtleties of Thuy's writing endear. But, what we have here are a series of vignettes, prose poems. Ultimately it's the smaller picture. The narrative jumps around in time and I can handle that, but I found that too often what's more important is only alluded to while instead a small story about an uncle's eccentricities is favoured. I found it powerful at times, but was disappointed that so little of the important tale was actually being relayed. It's a sure sign of distress when a short book feels like a long read.
Date published: 2013-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! A captivating true recount of the journey of a young Vietnamese girl and her family plummeted into French Canadian culture. A few similarities to my family's immigration to Montreal.
Date published: 2013-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The river of thoughts/memories that make Nguyễn An Tịnh's life A simple book (translated from French) which is a collection of thoughts/reflections back on Nguyễn An Tịnh's life. You get to know her and her family as she grows up in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, they fleeing to Manila and then immigrate to Canada where she lives in Montreal with her sons. She tells you of the important events of her life, the events than mean something to her - though seen as moments of reminiscing and some of insight to her past and why she is the way she is. Short and easy read.
Date published: 2013-01-14

Read from the Book

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. I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the two million soldiers deployed and scattered throughout the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two. I was born in the shadow of skies adorned with fireworks, decorated with garlands of light, shot through with rockets and missiles. The purpose of my birth was to replace lives that had been lost. My life’s duty was to prolong that of my mother.My name is Nguyen An Tịnh, my mother’s name is Nguyen An Tinh. My name is simply a variation on hers because a single dot under the i differentiates, distinguishes, dissociates me from her. I was an extension of her, even in the meaning of my name. In Vietnamese, hers means “peaceful environment” and mine “peaceful interior.” With those almost interchangeable names, my mother confirmed that I was the sequel to her, that I would continue her story. The History of Vietnam, written with a capital H, thwarted my mother’s plans. History flung the accents on our names into the water when it took us across the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago. It also stripped our names of their meaning, reducing them to sounds at once strange, and strange to the French language. In particular, when I was ten years old it ended my role as an extension of my mother.Because of our exile, my children have never been extensions of me, of my history. Their names are Pascal and Henri, and they don’t look like me. They have hair that’s lighter in colour than mine, white skin, thick eyelashes. I did not experience the natural feelings of motherhood I’d expected when they were clamped onto my breasts at 3 a.m., in the middle of the night. The maternal instinct came to me much later, over the course of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, unexpected smiles, sudden delights. Only then did I understand the love of the mother sitting across from me in the hold of our boat, the head of the baby in her arms covered with foul-smelling scabies. That image was before my eyes for days and maybe nights as well. The small bulb hanging from a wire attached to a rusty nail spread a feeble, unchanging light. Deep inside the boat there was no distinction between day and night. The constant illumination protected us from the vastness of the sea and the sky all around us. The people sitting on deck told us there was no boundary between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea. No one knew if we were heading for the heavens or plunging into the water’s depths. Heaven and hell embraced in the belly of our boat. Heaven promised a turning point in our lives, a new future, a new history. Hell, though, displayed our fears: fear of pirates, fear of starvation, fear of poisoning by biscuits soaked in motor oil, fear of running out of water, fear of being unable to stand up, fear of having to urinate in the red pot that was passed from hand to hand, fear that the scabies on the baby’s head was contagious, fear of never again setting foot on solid ground, fear of never again seeing the faces of our parents, who were sitting in the darkness surrounded by two hundred people.Before our boat had weighed anchor in the middle of the night on the shores of Rach Gia, most of the passengers had just one fear: fear of the Communists, the reason for their flight. But as soon as the vessel was surrounded, encircled by the uniform blue horizon, fear was transformed into a hundred-faced monster who sawed off our legs and kept us from feeling the stiffness in our immobilized muscles. We were frozen in fear, by fear. We no longer closed our eyes when the scabious little boy’s pee sprayed us. We no longer pinched our noses against our neighbours’ vomit. We were numb, imprisoned by the shoulders of some, the legs of others, the fear of everyone. We were paralyzed. The story of the little girl who was swallowed up by the sea after she’d lost her footing while walking along the edge spread through the foul-smelling belly of the boat like an anaesthetic or laughing gas, transforming the single bulb into a polar star and the biscuits soaked in motor oil into butter cookies. The taste of oil in our throats, on our tongues, in our heads sent us to sleep to the rhythm of the lullaby sung by the woman beside me. My father had made plans, should our family be captured by Communists or pirates, to put us to sleep forever, like Sleeping Beauty, with cyanide pills. For a long time afterwards, I wanted to ask why he hadn’t thought of letting us choose, why he would have taken away our possibility of survival. I stopped asking myself that question when I became a mother, when Dr. Vinh, a highly regarded surgeon in Saigon, told me how he had put his five children, one after the other, from the boy of twelve to the little girl of five, alone, on five different boats, at five different times, to send them off to sea, far from the charges of the Communist authorities that hung over him. He was certain he would die in prison because he’d been accused of killing some Communist comrades by operating on them, even if they’d never set foot in his hospital. He hoped to save one, maybe two of his children by launching them in this fashion onto the sea. I met Dr. Vinh on the church steps, which he cleared of snow in the winter and swept in the summer to thank the priest who had acted as father to his children, bringing up all five, one after the other, until they were grown, until the doctor got out of prison. I didn’t cry out and I didn’t weep when I was told that my son Henri was a prisoner in his own world, when it was confirmed that he is one of those children who don’t hear us, don’t speak to us, even though they’re neither deaf nor mute. He is also one of those children we must love from a distance, neither touching, nor kissing, nor smiling at them because every one of their senses would be assaulted by the odour of our skin, by the intensity of our voices, the texture of our hair, the throbbing of our hearts. Probably he’ll never call me maman lovingly, even if he can pronounce the word poire with all the roundness and sensuality of the oi sound. He will never understand why I cried when he smiled for the first time. He won’t know that, thanks to him, every spark of joy has become a blessing and that I will keep waging war against autism, even if I know already that it’s invincible. Already, I am defeated, stripped bare, beaten down.

Editorial Reviews

WINNER 2015 - Canada ReadsWINNER 2011 – Grand prix littéraire Archambault WINNER 2011 – Mondello Prize for MulticulturalismWINNER 2010 – Prix du Grand Public Salon du livre––Essai/Livre pratiqueWINNER 2010 – Governor General’s Award for Fiction (French-language)WINNER 2010 – Grand Prix RTL-Lire at the Salon du livre de Paris Longlisted 2013 – Man Asian Literary PrizeLonglisted 2014 – International IMPAC Dublin Literary AwardNominated 2012 – First Novel AwardShortlist 2012 - Scotiabank Giller PrizeShortlist 2012 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation“This is one of the millions of stories of migration in this country, the story of a woman migrating from Vietnam to Canada . . . It is harrowing, beautiful, and has compressed, perfect writing. This is the story of the future of Canada.” —Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, defending Ru at Canada Reads 2015"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 TranslationFrom the Hardcover edition.