Canada Reads winner Kim Thúy publishes 4th novel

In her new novel, Montreal writer Kim Thúy tells a story of a quiet young woman, Vi, who flees war-torn Vietnam with her mother and learns to embrace life and her own desires as a young lawyer studying in Canada.

Vi tells the story of a woman who returns to Vietnam after coming of age in Canada

Canada Reads-winning author Kim Thuy's speaks about the contrast between Canada and Vietnam. 2:34

The tiny Kim Thúy bounces into the CBC's Studio A asking, "Have you had a French kiss today? Do you plan to get a French kiss today?"

The Governor General Award and Canada Reads winning author of Ru is a bundle of energy— her tiny feet sporting red rain boots accented by red fingernails and lipstick.

She's a warm, engaging success story.

Thúy is here to talk about her new novel, Vi, a story about a young woman whose name means "precious, minuscule, microscopic" and how she transforms from a self-effacing girl into a confident lawyer who falls in love, returns to her native Saigon to work and knows heart break.  

With many parallels to Thúy's own life, one can't help but marvel at the transformation the writer has undergone since arriving with her parents and brothers over 40 years ago from Vietnam as a boat person.

"I want to talk about how we learn to live," she says.

"It's not because we're given a life that we know how to live. I think we need to learn to live. My mom keeps repeating that when you're born into a life, you have to learn how to stand, walk, drink, how to be a human, because we don't walk the same way if we're walking into a temple or going on a catwalk."

My Mom says all the time 'We can live our whole life and never become a human if we keep on taking shortcuts.'- Kim   Thúy

Thúy's delicate writing style, with its sumptuous images of a comfortable life in pre-war Vietnam, has always made reading her work a poetic experience.

Since a good part of Vi takes place in Canada, where the character is, like Thúy herself did, studying translation, then law and getting to know Canadian friends and customs, I asked her whether or not she found writing about Canada somewhat bland.

"Oh no. I wanted to say how beautiful Canada is," she says. 

"You know, you cannot appreciate the colour red without knowing the colour yellow. And that's why I put Canada next to Vietnam so you can appreciate how beautiful Canada is. That's the thing, silence and peace is so underestimated."

Vi  came out this week in French, published by Libre Expression, and the author will tour Quebec this month. After that, she'll head to France for the French launch of the novel.

Swedish and German translations are in the works.  

No English translation is available yet, but her previous novels were published in many languages, including in English, for Random House.

About the Author

Jeanette Kelly

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.