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.
Shortlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize
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"Subtlety of voice and effect is Thúy's strongest hand. Never is there a sense of false drama or manipulation of pain for easy emotional gain. In strictly human terms, the book's pivotal balance between endurance and despair is delicately, beautifully realized." - The Globe & Mail (Canada)
"Thuy's sparse style lends itself to such disturbing disclosures. Translated from French, the novel is written as a series of prose poems that alternate with longer passages." - The Independent (UK)
"Rendered in spare vignettes, Kim's lyrical debut novel is an autobiographical impression of motherhood and exile... but the disjointed narrative keeps readers at a distance, allowing tender glimpses of Nguyen's pain, but never fully exposing her." - Publishers Weekly
"Interwoven with glimpses of cousin Sao Mai, who was Uncle Two's princess, of a father "who always inspired the greatest, most wonderful happiness," of Aunt Seven's mystery son, raised by Aunt Four, and of young cousins and what they innocently did on the streets to survive, this is much more than another immigration story. For readers in search of intricate, mesmerizing narrative, Ru will not disappoint." - Library Journal
"As a quest for identity, Thúy's work is not altogether satisfying, but her powerful scene-setting makes her a writer to watch." - Kirkus
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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.
Ru won Canada's coveted Governor General's Award in 2010 in its original Canadian debut in French
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