Reading: Ru by Kim Thuy

Ru Kim Thuy

I recently read Ru by author Kim Thuy, another book on the CBC Canada Reads list. A couple of weeks ago I read And The Birds Rained Down, a finalist on the same list. Both books were stellar and I read them in only a couple of days.

Ru is the story of a young girl who immigrates to Canada from Vietnam back in the 1970’s. It’s written in the first person, and it reads as little excerpts from her memories rather than a detailed story, which I found really wonderful. The book is sad, tragic, but also happy and hopeful.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book. I love it because she recognizes that although material wealth was not their to hand down, her parents helped to build strong character in their children, ensuring their survival:

“My parents often remind my brothers and me that they won’t have any money for us to inherit, but I think that they’ve already passed onto us the wealth of their memories, allowing us to grasp the beauty of flowering wisteria, the delicacy of a word, the power of wonder. Even more, they’ve given us feet for walking to our dreams, to infinity. Which may be enough baggage to continue our journey on our own. Otherwise, we would pointlessly clutter our path with possessions to transport, to insure, to take care of.

A Vietnamese saying has it that, ‘Only those with long hair are afraid, for no one can pull the hair of those who have none.’ And so I try as much as possible to acquire only those things that don’t extend beyond the limits of my body.”

Another, because it is just so beautiful. I am in love with Joseph’s smell too.

“I have never had any questions except the one about the  moment when I could die. I should  have chosen that moment before the arrival of my children, for since then I’ve lost the option of dying. The sharp smell of their sun-baked hair, the smell of sweat on their backs when they wake from a nightmare, the dusty smell of their hands when they leave a classroom, meant that I have to live, to be dazzled by the shadow of their eyelashes, moved by a snowflake, bowled over by a tear on their cheek. My children have given me the exclusive power to blow on a wound to make the pain disappear, to understand words unpronounced, to possess the universal truth, to be a fairy. A fair smitten with the way they smell.”

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