By Kim Thúy
(Bloomsbury USA, Paperback, 9781608198986, 160pp.)
Publication Date: November 27, 2012
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At ten years old, Kim Thúy 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 émigré 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.
Kim Thúy was born in Saigon and arrived in Quebec at age ten in 1978. She has degrees from the University of Montreal in linguistics and translation and in law, and lives in Montreal, where she now devotes herself to writing.
Sheila Fischman is a two-time winner of both the Canada Council Prize for Translation and Columbia University's Felix-Antoine Savard Award, and has also received the Governor General's Award for Translation and the Molson Prize for the Arts.
Kim Thuy based her award-winning novel Ru on her own experiences as a refugee from war-torn Vietnam. She says the word "ru" has a poetic double meaning: In archaic French, it means a rill or stream, but in Vietnamese, it means a lullaby to soothe a child. More at NPR.org
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Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award
Finalist for the Giller Prize
"[A] moving autobiographical novel... Thuy's poetic vignettes, set along the way from Southeast Asia to Quebec, bring specificity to the familiar immigrant journey." - Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
"This extraordinary first novel unfolds like ethereal poetry…. this is much more than another immigration story. For readers in search of intricate, mesmerizing narrative, Ru will not disappoint." - Library Journal, starred review
"Less is more in this slim, award-winning autobiographical novel... This flow of memories [goes] beyond the refugee experience to touch on war and peace, the strength of maternal love, even the devastation of autism... Ru means 'stream' in French and 'lullaby' in Vietnamese; both are apt for this luminous first novel of memories strung together in concise yet lyrical and sensuous prose." - Booklist, starred review
"Unsentimental... poetic and powerful." - The Guardian
"Gloriously, passionately, delicately unique... A remarkable book." - The Chronicle Journal