Winner of Canada Reads 2015 and the Governor General’s Literary Award, Ru is a short lyrical novel that reads like poetic prose. It is a novel, but is undoubtedly autobiographical, with Kim Thuy (pronounced “twee”) herself coming to Canada from Vietnam as one of the “boat people.” This is not so much a story from beginning to end, but a series of evocative memories. It is a slim novel, but an interesting snapshot; a graceful and positive glimpse into the immigrant experience, despite all of the adjustments to fleeing as a refugee and living in a new land. I read most of it on a bus trip from Toronto to Kitchener!
Ru, originally published in French, means lullaby and in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow of some kind like of tears, blood, or money. There is a flow in this book of emotion and feelings about very different cultures. Even though it says that it is a novel right on the cover, I first thought I was reading straight memoir, and then rather jarringly realized that it must be fiction. I found this a bit disruptive and I wonder why the author chose to write it that way. Perhaps fiction gave her greater license to add the experiences of others as well.