Cover Image: Em

Em

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💫 Em 💫 
By: Kim Thuy & Sheila Fischman (translation) 
Publisher: Random House (Sept 28. 2021)

Not a long book at only 160 or so pages but packed with love, devastation and policies that hurt so many during the Vietnam War. 

Some will find it disjointed with the translation but if you dig through you’ll see the traces of generational trauma from war; I struggled at first just trying to get the flow of it.. again I think that it might just be the way it was translated… but I did find the allure of another voice speaking on the vibrations that a war can bring. And the simple kindness or love that can also pop up.

Quick read. I think I need to search for more books on the Vietnam war as I have read very little on it. Minus what our schools taught us. 

Thank you @randomhouse for the gifted copy in return for an honest review 
3.5
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As usual, Kim Thuy's story telling moves me in unimaginable ways. Kim's writing style, compelling stories and enthralling characters are everything. I don't believe I connected with this book the way I have with her other ones but I would definitely re-read it and give it another chance. I love this author.
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This is a different style of book with very short chapters focusing on different characters so it took me awhile to get into it.   Once I did, I was hooked and wanted to know what happened to them all.   It is a hard story in some ways since it is set at the end of the Vietnam war when the Americans were pulling out.   Louis is a young boy who cares for an abandoned baby living on the streets of Saigon.    He is the son of a long gone American soldier.   The story deals with Louis, the baby and the different people that interacted with them, some for good, some not so much.
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I found this book extremely difficult to read.  It seemed disjointed and there was no flow. Perhaps because it was an ARC, which had many errors, it was hard to understand the story. Others have read it and found it moving but I did not. The story takes place in Vietnam during the war and centres on a little boy who takes care of an abandoned baby. She is named Em as this can mean little sister.
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a disjointed telling of the Vietnam war told by louis and an abandoned baby named em or little sister. Beautifully written short story of love and survival was emotional to get through at times but rewarding as well.  

Thank you netgalley for this arc
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This book is not what I anticipated. It is comprised of snippets of relationships between the main characters during the time of the Vietnamese War. It centres largely around two orphans, Emma-Jade (em Hong) and Louis, who were both children of American soldiers and Vietnamese woman, To me there were too many historical facts and not enough story.
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In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. The boy is Louis, the child of a long-gone American soldier. Louis calls the baby em Hồng, em meaning "little sister," or "beloved." Even though her cradle is nothing more than a cardboard box, em Hồng's life holds every possibility.

Reading that, I thought this would be a story about a baby raised by a small boy during the ravages of the Vietnamese war. Instead, this is more like a series of vignettes leading to that one point and away from that one point. It is a story of the power of love and perhaps forgiveness even in the midst of war. It is an accounting for the horror the Vietnamese war caused for so many people. Those innocent people caught in a tragedy they had no control over.

Even though it wasn't at all what I expected, the book was quite engaging.
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Before going into this book, I was already familiar with Thúy and her story because I’d studied her work in a Québecois literature class I was in a few semesters ago. That being said, this story was wholly about the Vietnam war and the love and family that the Vietnamese had to find and protect during the pain and chaos. 

The book is written with beautiful prose and tells the interwoven stories of a handful of people who were affected by the war. It was a truly heartbreaking book, but the emphasis on love and found family was gorgeous and inspiring!

I highly recommend this translation, along with Thúy’s other works- whether you read the original French version or not. Her stories are just phenomenal and touch upon so many truths that Vietnamese people hold and deal with. She gives readers such a clear view into the lives of Vietnamese people, specifically the lives of Vietnamese refugees or “boat people” that reflect and draw upon her own experiences.
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Received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Em is supposedly a very short novel (152pages) but I'm unsure whether I was able to read 100% of the book's content. My downloaded copy is very poor with sections of blank pages which begs the question - Am I in a position to rate this book? This is my third consecutive horrible experience where the ARCs of books I have received from Netgalley are of exceptionally poor quality. 

Based on what I read, I feel comfortable enough to say that this book is a very good read. The author did a super job weaving a few very interesting characters within the framework of the Vietnam war. Having travelled extensively in Vietnam and visited many war artefacts, tunnels, prisons, and beautiful beaches as well, I think I was able to appreciate the content even more.

The novel introduces the reader to Alexendre and Mai. Alexandre is a rubber tree plantation owner and Mai, a young girl who Alexendre fancies or, more accurately, uses to satisfy his own needs. Mai goes to Alexendre with hate in her heart as she quietly sabotages the growth and harvesting of the rubber trees. Their union produces a little girl called Tâm who inherits some of her father's whiteness and features but whose birth also brings about shame on her mother symbolic of a betrayer of the locals' patriotic cause. 

Tâm enjoys a privileged life for a short while as her parents are killed off in an explosion on the plantation, very early in her life. A wet nurse, hired to breast feed the baby, smuggles the little girl out to My Lai, her native village. Here Tâm is introduced to a grandmother (the nurse's mother) and an uncle (the nurse's son left in the care on her mother as she moves away to seek employment). The nurse treats Tâm as she would her own child; eventually moving with her to Saigon to facilitate her schooling.

Tragedy strikes when the nurse, learning that her son is a new father, travels to My Lai to celebrate her grandson's birth. An attack on the village eviscerates the population and miraculously Tâm is saved by an American pilot who plucks her off a heap of dead bodies. Tâm finds herself first in an orphanage and subsequently as a "comfort girl" to tired and often times demoralized American soldiers. Tâm is part of the R&R intended to denote relaxation and recreation, it degenerates to "rape and run" with different acronyms surfacing (I&I - intercourse and intoxication or A&A - Ass and Alcohol). Naturally, these rendezvous leads to unwanted children.

The novel describes some of the hardships of these children from orphanages to the streets and it also portrays a sense of community given their circumstances so where possible, they look out for each other. This is the case of Louis named after the famed Louis Armstrong and possibly because of his darker skin tone. Louis comes upon a young child and despite being a child himself, he attempts to care for the child naming the little girl Em Hong. As the novel progresses, it addresses the new lives of the Vietnamese evacuees which include Tâm, and Louis. Many became entrepreneurs mostly in the nail salon business.

The author, who as a child of 10 years, came with her family as an evacuee, and now resides in Montreal. Her novel reads like a lament for her home country - the division (north versus south), the strife, as well as the atrocities such as the carpeting of Agent Orange which has far-reaching consequences even today. I cannot eliminate from my mind the young adults who I saw working all day embroidering intricate patterns (looks more like a sweat shop, if you ask me); a deliberate effort (I was told) to give these young people, affected by Agent Orange, some purpose and dignity. A war which started before I was born still bear ugly scars today. Kim Thuy's novel is a reminder of this senseless war and its toll on both enemy sides.
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I wanted to read this book based on the 5* rating that I gave Ru, which I read in 2015. I cannot remember much of that story; however, Em certainly gave me a very personal perspective of the Vietnam war. I am giving this title 4* because it taught me about a war that I was too young to understand when it was happening. My thanks and appreciation to Net Galley for offering me this book as a "read now" title.
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I was disappointed. This may have been better if it were longer and the characters more developed. The story felt rushed and disjointed.
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Em is a unique story set in the backdrop of the Vietnam war and presenting how the lives of certain people intersected. Beautifully written with lyrical prose, Em not just tells the story of these characters but also educates us about the times of war and more. I was reminded of The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe as well as The Farm by Joanne Ramos. 

Em is about real storytelling and recognizing that even when we want to tell the truth, we can never do justice to it. Based on what our focal point of attention is, there will be lots of details about a day and time that will not be put into words for the reader. Kim Thúy is an amazing storyteller and through her writing, she portrays not just the characters but also gives much needed historical context and commentary.

Em is a thought-provoking book about the ways in which people’s lives intersect. In times of war, there is so much uncertainty that it is impossible to know who will end up where, especially if the country is at the epicenter of the war. I loved the writing style and the lyrical prose of this book. Kim has a magic in storytelling that I have never read before and it is fascinating that the translation continues to do it justice. I connected with the characters and felt a kinship to them which I had not expected for such a short book.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  Full review will be on the Armed with A Book in September.
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Emotional reading! 

Em is a little literary gem written by Kim Thuy which tells about the realities that her people have experienced in Vietnam! Some passages are hard, sometimes touching! Written with a touch of poetry, this story is worth reading. Be prepared to feel many emotions while reading this journey!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley for offering me an ecopy of this book. This is my honest opinion!
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“A bullet can kill the enemy, but a bullet can also produce an enemy, depending on whom that bullet strikes.”

I have NEVER read anything quite as hauntingly beautiful as this book. I’ll remember it for a long time to come. Kim Thuy has written a tale about connection in exposing the history of the people whose lives have been shaped either by the wartime trauma and/or the ultimate sacrifices they made in allowing for their loved ones to survive. 

In highlighting several wartime atrocities, the author has shown the linked destinies of the broken hearted, yet determined and ingenious, Vietnamese whose love exemplified the greatest act of resistance. 
       -	a vindictive young woman and her enemy, who also happened to be her employer, who fell in love on 
                a rubber plantation. Although their lives were cut short, their orphaned daughter was raised to take 
                every opportunity presented and, although a child of the Vietnamese diaspora, she goes on to build a 
                powerful empire.
      -	the massacre at My Lai and the helicopter pilot who saved a girl from a pile of massacred villagers 
                simply because she had hair the same as his daughter. Love saved her, too. 
      -	Louis, a street child born of a long-gone American soldier, who wakes up to find an abandoned baby 
                beside him. In an outpouring of love, he cares for the baby by stealing milk to keep her alive. You’ll 
                have to read this book to find out what happened when he came face to face with the shopkeeper 
                twenty years later! Love saved everyone here, too. 
      -	President Gerald Ford’s $2M Operation Babylift and how Hugh Hefner is connected with this 
                disastrous plan. 
      -	the growth of the nail salon industry and how it was influenced by Tippi Hedren, the actress in 
                Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’

I was saddened to read about the effects of war felt even today as a result of the rainbow rain of herbicides, nail polish, rubber, a generation of fatherless biracial children, and a thousands of families devastated by the atrocities and death associated with war. 

I was surprised to read that the Vietnamese still use at least 100 French words relating back to when France entrenched itself so thoroughly in Vietnam that the two cultures borrowed from each other. 

Thuyn is to be congratulated on her spectacular five-star book, written in such a refreshing style and with characters who will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. This 160 page up close and personal look into the war in Vietnam is not to be missed! 

Publishes September 28, 2021.

I was generously gifted this advance copy by Kim Thuy, Penguin Random House Canada, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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An extraordinary, fabulous book during the time of the War in Vietnam. I read the English translation. A very poignant and heartbreaking account of what life was like for people during this War. If you have interest in this time period this book will both enlighten and likely horrify you.
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This one was a difficult one to read based on the topics it explores (definitely important, though). What I really like about Kim Thuy is that her novels are always impactful and every sentence written serves the purpose of creating a story that is moving. This one is no different. This one shows us the horrors of war through violence, greed, sexual violence, etc. Em, for me, read more like non-fiction, but I think that might be intentional?
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There is a painting reproduced in Em by the Quebecois artist Louis Boudreault (an image used on the cover of the novel’s original French language release) that depicts a cardboard box with many threads coming out of its flaps; the threads twisted and tangled hopelessly together. Author Kim Thúy writes, “If I knew how to end a conversation, if I could distinguish true truths, personal truths from instinctive truths, I would have disentangled the threads for you before tying them up or arranging them so that the story of this book would be clear between us.” If that sounds a little confusing, it’s clearly by design: Em has the feeling of nonfiction — of a biographical investigation into the history of some specific people who survived the Vietnam War; where they came from and where they ended up — and chapters follow a thread of connection from one character to another and another; twisting back and entangling with people we’ve met earlier. And because this format has the feeling of real and messy life, and because Thúy includes information from the historical record, everything about this novel feels true; which is horrifying in the wartime details and often uplifting, as in the care that orphans would show to one another on the streets of Saigon (“In every conflict zone, good steals in and edges its way right into the cracks of evil.”) This is not a long work, the chapters are short and waste no words, and I believed every bit of it.
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