Monday, May 28

Book Review: Ru

Title: Ru

Author: Kim Thúy

Pages: EBook 177

Summary: 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.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: One of my favourite aspects of the book was the narrative, which was beautiful and elegant and helped create a great atmosphere to the book.

The book was written in short "chapters" usually a page or two at a time as the narrator re-accounts tidbits of her life, although for the most part it stayed in chorological order there were times it jumped around. Which I found worked wonderfully in this case, as it was more like how the memory works when a person/character are re-telling their story. Although I'd have liked if the timeline was more solid, than jumping around, I think in this particular case it worked, and had a great affect on the reader.

Despite each chapter being so short, and the story itself was very short, the author did a wonderful job at writing an emotional story.  The narrator is able to bring up the harsh realities of being a refugee and how it impacted her life. The story is almost journal like. Which was also a bad thing, because I felt like I never got a good, hard look at the characters and their development. While I got a good sense on what happened to the narrator, and there was some emotional element, it was told in a way, where you only got a small piece of that memory. Almost like you only got a small piece of a larger story.

The writing was well done, and I really enjoyed how it was written. The writing itself was lyrical, and despite the fact it's a translated book, it didn't seem to lose its essence when it was translated. Which can be a problem in verse writing that has been translated.

Overall a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, but to select readers. While it is a good story, I do think that because of how it's written it could be a turn off to some readers.

What to read next: The Jade Peony


  1. This does indeed sound like a mesmerizing and intricate book, and it might be something that I would really like. I loved the tone and substance of your review, and get the feeling that this book would be a significantly meaningful book for me.

    1. Thanks. It was a mesmerizing book, I think the short verse like chapters helped create that atmosphere. This is another book I think you would enjoy!

  2. Oh my...I have heard so many raving responses to this book that I wonder that I haven't just snapped up a copy and sat down to read it immediately...really must!

    1. You would enjoy this book as well I think. It does seem to live up to the raving responses, and a very original book compared to what I normally read.

  3. I feel so late to the party on this book...

    Since characterization seems to play a large role in your overall impressions, I was very curious to read what you had to say here. I'm happy to see that there really was something for a character-driven reader to latch on to as well. And I totally agree with you about the translation. I sometimes have to hunker down to get through a translated book, but this one felt natural and untouched.

    1. This book definitely something to latch onto. I find for the most part, good characterization is one of the essential aspects of a book, even plot driven ones. If the characters are cardboard, that it effects the book.