An elegiac and lyrical autobiographical novel of a family that fled Vietnam in the 1970s. They arrived in Canada, via Malaysian refugee camps, and eventually settled in Quebec.
The story is prefaced with an explanation. "In French, 'ru' means a small stream and, figuratively, a flow, a discharge--of tears, of blood, of money. In Vietnamese, 'ru' means a lullably, to lull.
The narrator was ten years old when 'the History of Vietnam' ended her "role as an extension of my mother." Her name was very similar to her mother's, because she was the sequel to her, she would continue her story. But the events changed their own planned futures and histories. She tells their story from her perspective thirty years later, as a Canadian immigrant who had to adapt to a new country, new languages, new customs. She had to learn how to accommodate these new layers of being-ness within her own identity.
It is not a straight linear narration, but neither does it alway jump back and forth between discrete episodes of time. Instead she shares her memories as part of the flow of her present and past life. Woven throughout is an appreciation of the power and love of family, of ancestors and descendants.
The tale occasionally started to stray toward the territory of sentimentality but fortunately veered away before arrival. It does not dwell or revel in horrors and atrocities. It is simple, yet elegant, and quietly inspiring.
It won Canada's Governor General's Award for French-language fiction last year, and has since won other international awards.