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Vi a novel by Kim Thúy

Referred to as one of the most interesting new voices in Canadian literature by CBC Books, Kim Thúy really needs no introduction to avid followers of CanLit. Book bloggers have release dates blocked out in their calendar when there's a new book announcement. 

Her previous two novels were huge successes. Ru was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mãn was a poetic masterpiece reviewed on SukasaReads. 


In Mãn, Kim Thùy creates a poetic masterpiece. Words and sentences caress the page as does paint a canvas; such is the dedication to the craft by an artist. ~ Shilpa Raikar 
Kim Thúy brings that same love of the craft to Vi. Every sentence has a purpose. Every book has a message. Kim Thúy moves you with her powerful words that have been precisely translated by Sheila Fischman. 

The novel speaks to the struggles of the Vietnamese refugees as they try to not only adapt into the new world they are immersed in, but also to reinvent themselves in their new surroundings. It's a struggle that all immigrants can understand, whether they came into Canada recently, or a few generations ago. 

It's a struggle that is not just confined to the first generation. The secrets they try to spare their children, somehow find a way of resurfacing and bubbling up to create a chaos that must eventually be addressed. Sharon Bala's book The Boat People also tackles some of these issues that newcomers face in Canada. To wholly assimilate into the dominant culture's norms and forget everything, or to ghettoize within a multicultural mosaic and ensure that the stories of a generation are not forgotten. 

Vi was the daughter of a enterprising mother and wealthy, spoiled father who never had to grow up. Life would have continued as it was for Vi in Vietnam, had the Vietnam War not shattered the family apart. Her father stayed behind, as the rest of the family made a home in Canada. 

She is witness to the incredible complexity of cultural norms, and family obligations, as she tries to navigate her way in a country that is rife with possibilities and opportunities. Attempting to carve out a place for herself in the world, is challenging and the journey of the novel is poetic and troubling. 

As in most of her books, Kim Thúy brings to her readers a better understanding of Vietnamese cultural norms and a better understanding of the language. 
Like all Vietnamese, my father took his coffee sweetened with condensed milk, except for the first sip, which he preferred black, pure. 
Vi was at an impasse with her family: stick to her own career path which they deemed unpredictable and chaotic; or move to the type of career expected of her, one in medicine or pharmacology.

Readers are bound to pick up a word or two of Vietnamese to incorporate into their repertoire
Even though Vietnamese is now written by sound, most of the words still carry the trace of the original images from ideograms. 
Did you know there are six versions of the word "adore" in Vietnamese? 

to adore madly
to adore to the point of going rigid as a tree
to adore giddily
to adore to the point of losing consiousness
to the point of fatigue
to the point of losing one's grip on oneself

There is also a beautiful point in the book as Kim Thúy tries to impart the idea of believing in yourself and alleviating self doubt. Vi has always seen herself as a quiet observer, preferring to shrink into the shadows rather than stepping into the limelight. 

But then someone came along who compared her to the rare udumbara flower, which the Buddhists claimed to appear only once every three thousand years. Most of the time they hid by the hundreds beneath the skin of their fruits. But once in a while they escaped and and blossomed on a leaf, or a wire fence. 

Such is the writing of Kim Thúy. She has an uncanny ability to enchant, while making us aware of the gravity of life that can put us off course. Because Vi is a novel that was translated from French, a lot of props has to go to Sheila Fischman for translating it beautifully, ensuring that the message is not lost and maintaining the novel's magic. 

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Blog Post by Shilpa Raikar, who believes in the power of storytelling to connect readers, and strives for diversity and inclusivity. 

Vi by Kim Thúy is published by Random House Canada. Copy provided by Penguin Random House Canada


Review by @SukasaReads (a division of @SukasaStyle)

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