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
Ru is not a novel that can be read lightly, it requires a certain level of concentration from the reader in order to follow the plot. Each section is only at most 3 page long and each of these sections moved between the past and present and takes the reader along for the ride.
The structure of this novel is extremely unusual and is one that I have only come across a couple of times. However this structure of short sections adds to the character and feel of the novel and without it I feel like the novel would not flow as well as it does. It is through this structure that the author can successfully move between the past and the present.
Memory is the central theme of this books and just like our memories the books in not told in a specific chronological order. It is these memories of what has happened to us in the past and our ancestors that really shape the novel and in fact shape who everyone is. Just like memories at times the reader is not given the whole picture and must decide for themselves what really happened.
Ru is a wonderful book that takes the reader on a journey through Vietnam to Quebec and this journey will stay with me for a long time.