* STARRED REVIEW
The recipient of international accolades – including Canada’s coveted Governor General’s Award (2010) for its original Canadian debut in French – this extraordinary first novel unfolds like ethereal poetry. The enigmatic title means “a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge—of tears, blood, of money” in French; in Vietnamese, it’s a “lullaby, to lull.” Made up of spare vignettes that flow through decades, this autobiographical narrative reveals a girl’s journey from wealthy privilege in Vietnam; her reinvention as a war refugee in Canada; her return to her birth country, where she is considered “too fat to be Vietnamese” – not because of her stature, but because “the American dream had made me more substantial, heavier, weightier”; and her own overwhelming motherhood.
Verdict: Interwoven with glimpses of cousin Sao Mai who was Uncle Two’s princess, of a father “who always inspired the greatest, most wonderful happiness,” of Aunt Seven’s mystery son raised by Aunt Four, and of young cousins and what they innocently did on the streets to survive, this is much more than another immigration story. For readers in search of intricate, mesmerizing narrative, Ru will not disappoint.
Published: 2012 (United States)