B Review Category · B+ Reviews · Book Reviews · Books · Historical Fiction

Book Review: Ru by Kim Thúy

Title: Ru
Author: Kim Thúy
Year: 2009 (trans. 2012)
Pages: 141
Dates Read: March 1-30, 2017
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Genres: B (semi), HF, IT
Rating: ★★★★


Summary: Nguyễn An Tịnh immigrates to Canada with her family as a child, following the Tet Offensive in 1968.

Favorite Quotes:

“When I meet young girls in Montréal or elsewhere who injure their bodies intentionally, deliberately, who want permanent scars to be drawn on their skin, I can’t help secretly wishing they could meet other young girls whose permanent scars are so deep they’re invisible to the naked eye.  I would like to seat them face to face and hear them make comparisons between a wanted scar and an inflicted scar, one that’s paid for, the other that pays off, one visible, the other impenetrable, one inordinately sensitive, the other unfathomable, one drawn, the other misshapen.”

“He had only to run his finger over my immodestly exhibited scar, however, and take my finger in his other hand and run it over the back of his dragon and immediately we experienced a moment of complicity, of communion.”

“Without writing, he wouldn’t have heard the snow melting or leaves growing or clouds sailing through the sky.  Nor would he have seen the dead end of a thought, the remains of a star or the texture of a comma.”


Review: Oof.  At just 141 pages, this book was tough to get through.  It was hard work to read even a few of the page-length chapters.  The weight of the text and the emotions that run through it seep into your lungs and leave you almost breathless.  As a privileged, middle-class, white woman, I can’t relate to about 99% of the things in this book.  I won’t say that reading it made me feel as if I went through these experiences myself.  Words alone can’t do that—at least not to that extent.  But I could definitely feel the emotions and pain presented in the text.

 

 

 

The book is written as a series of semi-autobiographical vignettes.  I think that, perhaps because of the brevity of the work, Thúy’s words carry more weight than they would were this written as a standard plot-driven novel.  We don’t get pages upon pages of details that add up to create an image of a character; instead, we get little bits and pieces, small parts of a much larger whole.  But it doesn’t matter.  The characters’ experiences should still affect us because of how poignant and universal they are.
The current refugee situations across the globe made this book more painful for me to read.  The work isn’t totally a biography, but it’s not exactly fiction either.  To think that there are people going through similar experiences right now is both depressing and infuriating, and there are more than a few people I can name whom I would want to read this book, even though I know they wouldn’t.  Books like these should be required reading in schools.  They are also the kinds of books that would be challenged, which is all the more reason for them to be more widely read.

You can find this in print at The Book Depository, on the Kindle at Amazon, or at your local library. You can read more about it and find similar books on Goodreads.
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