Book Review: Ru by Kim Thúy
“In French, ru means a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge –of tears, of blood, of money. In Vietnamese, ru means a llulaby, tu lull.” Ru, the novel by Kim Thúy it’s a deep stream of tears, fears and memories that surround the life of Nguyên An Tinh a girl who, along with her family, escaped from Vietnam.
In a way, as readers, we are more familiar with the stories of Latin-American immigrants. I believe Ru brings its own perspective of what it means to leave a home to create a home. Nguyên An Tinh was born in a rich family in Saigon but when her country is taken by the communists they lose house, hope, everything. “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”. He managed to escape with his family but Nguyên spent most of her life wondering why he had considered such a way out.
Past and present are intertwined, written in short vignettes, Ru offers a mosaic of images from Nguyên’s survival. The journey starts in Saigon, continues in a refugee camp in Malaysia, and ends in Canada. In Quebec life is better, but better means to sleep on and old mattress with bed bugs, it also means to starve, to apprehend a new life, learn a new language, understand a different weather.
Ru is Kim Thúy’s first novel is far from being a lullaby, nevertheless it seems to be written to lull. Thúy is a solid author willing to experiment with fictional time and form; hers is a unique voice that allows us to “grasp the beauty of a flowering wisteria, the delicacy of a word, the power of wonder”.
Ru, Kim Thúy. Random House Canada, 2012.