A book of rare beauty: Ru is a lullaby of Vietnam and a love letter to a new homeland. Was Radio 4 Book at Bedtime.
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, 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.
Kim Thúy has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. She currently lives in Montreal where she devotes herself to writing.
'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
'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
'"Life is a struggle," runs a Vietnamese proverb, "in which sorrow leads to defeat." Thúy's fictionalised memoir adopts a similarly unsentimental attitude to a life of extremes. ... The accounts of escape and arrival are exciting, but Ru is more about observation and atmosphere ... Thúy's stories are poetic and powerful.', James Smart, Guardian
'An elegant, lyrical flow of prose . . . It is a difficult, challenging and ultimately rewarding read from an author already at the top of her game.', Billy O'Callaghan, Irish Examiner
'Striking', Claire Armistead, Guardian
'Rendered in exquisite, unsentimental prose. Kim Thúy is a born storyteller, but she rewrites the traditional immigrant narrative in a completely new way, makes it whole and wondrous once more.', Jury Citation for the Gillier Prize Shortlist