A Splendid Example of Life Story Writing

I recently read the lovely book, “Ru” by Kim Thuy.  Published in 2009, this book has won a number of awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction.

Ru, in Vietnamese, means lullaby, to lull.  In French, it is a small stream and, figuratively a flow, a discharge – of tears, of blood, of money.  A fitting title for a book that documents the flow of an extraordinary life.  In short exquisite vignettes, Thuy takes us along on her journey from her palatial home in Saigon to a crowded refugee camp and onward to  her new life in Canada.  As an adult, her journey includes motherhood and the challenge of learning to shape her love around her younger son’s autism.

Thuy’s short narratives move back and forth from past to present and back again.  I am amazed how this author, in just 141 pages, manages to transmit her story so clearly and beautifully.  She writes with delicacy and wisdom about a childhood marked by horrifying brutality as well as about the pleasures of ordinary life in our peaceful country.

Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, put this book forward for Canada Reads 2015.  In defending the book, Bailey said: “This is one of the millions of stories of migration in this country, the story of a woman migrating from Vietnam to Canada. . .It is harrowing, beautiful and has compressed, perfect writing.  This is the story of the future of Canada.”

Ru is a book that is well worth reading, especially for those of us involved in personal history writing.  Both in terms of its content and style, it offers some wonderfully thought-provoking ideas.

If you haven’t heard of this small autobiographical novel, or even if you have, please consider putting it on your reading list.

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