Cover Image: Em


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Member Reviews

A short historical fiction novel sharing stories of relationships during the Vietnam War and in its aftermath, Thúy shows how love can still be found in the most dangerous circumstances.
​The alternative cover for this novel depicting a box with various tangled strings is talked about in the novel and I think a beautiful representation of the novel itself. A tangled web of stories from individuals who are all linked in some way, Em draws connections between some of the most traumatic events in Vietnam’s history, humanizing numbers, facts and death tolls.
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Weaving fact and fiction, and linking the stories of several Vietnamese orphans, this is profoundly unique and impactful novel by Kim Thuy, translated by Sheila Fischman.

As a reader, I found I had to play an active role in reading this novel, filling in all that was left unsaid while also engaging with the unvarnished horrors that are presented. Kim Thuy pushed me to see and feel and experience more than was often comfortable. I felt it was my duty not to turn away, and was rewarded with an equally powerful sense of immeasurable resilience and deep humanity.
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Em is an amazing visual of the extreme atrocities of the war in Vietnam. I had a hard time reading this novel as the imagery was hard to take in. I think at a different time in my life I could appreciate this more as it was difficult to add to what we are all dealing with now. The writing is brilliant and as it is translated into English from French it is powerful and direct. Kim Thuy is a talented, honest, thorough writer. She is an author to watch as she writes with grace. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read "Em".
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Em by Kim Thúy. Published in 2021 by Random House Canada. Translated to English from French by Sheila Fischman.
I absolutely loved all of Kim Thúy's previous books: Ru, Mãn, and Vi so I was thrilled to get a copy of Em through Netgalley @netgalley
As always, Thúy's writing exists somewhere between poetry and prose. Structured in micro-chapters that are often less than a page long, Em is a story about both the horrific violence of the Vietnam war (or rather the American war), as well as about chance connections between people.
Thúy's use of language is so thoughtful and precise that it is truly an impressive feat by Sheila Fischman to translate her works. Having read a couple of the books (Ru and Mãn) in the original French, I can attest that the translation is excellently done - although I will still likely reread Em in French when I get a chance.
"The word em refers to the little brother or little sister in a family; or the younger of two friends; or the woman in a couple. I like to think that the word em is the homonym of the verb aimer, “to love,” in French, in the imperative: aime."
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So happy to have a chance to read this before the Giller Shortlist is announced. Kim Thuy has a unique voice. This novel has some heartbreakingly beautiful moments of tragedy and hope. I learned quite a bit about some parts of Vietnamese history, and more about the fluidity of relationships and families, and how quickly a life can shift paths and fortunes. Well deserved praise for Kim Thuy's latest - an easy recommend for handselling. Thank you
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At first the book seemed a little disjointed and I did struggle to get into it. The formatting was also a little off, making it harder to flow through the story. Once I got use to the formatting and realized how the stories were connecting, it flowed a lot better and I was able to immerse myself into the story.

It's a quick read, but it's harrowing at the same time. This is a real look at the people who lived through Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. We hear all about the U.S. soldiers who returned, but what about the women and children left behind? What trauma did this face? Em goes into that. And while it is harrowing and uncomfortable at times, it's also poetically written.

My full review is at:
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EM by Kim Thúy translated from the French by Sheila Fischman is a great novel! I decided to read this book because it was long listed for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize and I’m so glad I did. As we travel from war torn Vietnam with orphans and single mothers we’re taken on a journey of resilience, hope, courage and love. Told through vignettes that jump from time and place and reveal history this novel feels part history book and memoir. I really enjoyed the unique writing style as facts are delivered and the expansive timeline. This short novel at 152 pages is the perfect length and concise while still evoking emotion and depth. I look forward to seeing if this book makes the shortlist!
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalley for my review copy!
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Against popular opinion I was not a fan of Em by Kim Thúy. While the stories of the Vietnamese woman and children in Em were impactful and profound, I felt the chapters were short, abrupt and disjointed. I found it hard to follow. There were so many characters that I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. Random characters would appear and disappear that I couldn’t fathom a connection. While it was more evident at the end of the book how each character was intertwined, I would have preferred more character development earlier in the book. All in all, not my favourite book. But I did enjoy the snippets of information about the Vietnam war from the perspective of the woman and children living there.  

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Canada for my electronic ARC, in exchange for my honest review.
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My first Thúy and I was impressed. Her prose is soft and expressive, poignant with the history that she draws from to weave the experiences of her characters. She wields a poeticism that infects her prose, making it flow gently and steadily, losing none of its sharpness.

The absent colonization by the French, the robust rubber mercantilism at the expense of Indian and Chinese lives, and the resulting war that tore a nation apart and saw the harm and death of so many, is so skillfully handled here; rendered with clarity and beauty.

Thúy uses interconnected snapshots that move from character to character, formulating images of their situations and experiences as the scape of their homeland changes.

War creates more than just ex-soldiers, orphans, and poisoned international relations. It causes lasting scars both physical and within the psyche, it hobbles nations and crushes homes. It leads to violations of land and humans (with women and children paying the highest cost, for the hubris and greed of men), damaging the psychology and physiology of both, which has far reaching effects that never leave.

Thúy has drawn from personal memory to put to page the memory of a war and its ravages, using prose so beautiful that the reader is swept up in the reading experience.
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What I love about this book is its rolling tempo. It's quite remarkable how quickly it moves while feeling very still in each chapter. Thuy is skillful in immersing the reader in every single moment while continuing to propel the story forward at all times. The result is the feeling of being truly taken away, to a different time, a different place, a totally different experience of the world. It isn’t an easy read. It isn’t a simple or comfortable story. It is, however, a very meaningful retelling of an actual historical event and it should never be ignored.
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I was thrilled to receive an ARC of Kim Thuy's latest book, <u>Em</u> (my thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley!)   I've read most of this author's other short novels  and loved them.  The writing style is lyrical - downright beautiful in places - despite the fact that the plots of  her novels  are usually focused on war, rape, racism, prejudice, avarice, exploitation and abject poverty.  The female characters in her novels never make it through unscathed, and yet I am addicted to this author's stories.

<u>Em</u>  is no exception.  I loved it!  The author lands on each of the many characters in this novel like a bee makes its way to each successive flower.  One character links you to yet another character as they touch on each other's lives in this heart- and soul-stirring novel.  

I always marvel at how much this author conveys in so few pages.  Her careful choice of words captivates me every time.  I hate to put down her books and can't wait to get back to them.  Admittedly, the subject matter is often sad, but I find that reading anything by this author is ultimately satisfying - even restful.  These terrible things happened in the past:  the characters have had time to accept them, adjust and move on.  

Some vignettes do take place in current times, but for the most part we are observing several young characters  in different parts of the world who have impacted or transformed the lives of the young characters in Vietnam, Louis and Em,  who serve as the focal point of this very beautifully written story.  Such a haunting, addictive read!   I highly, highly recommend Kim Thuy's <u>Em</u>.  I never regret my time spent reading  this author's novels:   sheer poetry that billows  and twists in the wind like a satin ribbon every time.
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Em by Kim Thuy is an intense and sometimes harrowing read - Thuy brings us into Vietnam during the war and creates an almost invisible thread that begins to link several of the characters. This is my first novel by this author, and despite its brevity, her fluid writing and ability to balance the shocking and mundane have made me want to explore this author more. Originally written in French, this novel, by a respected Quebecois author, is a nominee for the #ScotiabankGillerPrize. I received an English e-ARC of this novel, but note that it would be worthwhile to read it in the original French to truly appreciate the delicate way in which Thuy writes. 

Thuy explores the lives of a variety of characters, notably young Louis who discovers an abandoned baby, named Em, meaning little sister or beloved. In the novel, the author examines the Vietnamese language and its French colonial influence, and the author compares the word Em and the French word aime (love). As a Francophile I adored this aspect of the novel - exploration of the origins of language? Count me in!

This was a tough read for a variety of reasons - I sometimes found it challenging to follow as each chapter was almost like a tiny novella often without a thread tying the chapters together. The ARC I received had some formatting issues, so I wasn’t fully confident that there weren’t missing paragraphs. Finally, this novel had some gruesome scenes and I almost stopped reading several times because portions were truly graphic and turned my stomach. This aspect of the novel was unexpected based on the description of the novel, so I would caution those who normally try to steer clear of this type of content.

What I did genuinely appreciate about this novel was an opportunity to learn more about the Vietnam war and Operation Babylift - as a Canadian, I admittedly know very little about this subject and would have benefitted from more knowledge to fully appreciate this novel.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC ebook.

So far this book is much better than the last book I read by the same author. I think the author is much better than comes across while distractedly listening to an audiobook.
The quality needs to be savored to be fully absorbed.

Eye opening. Sad. Informative.
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It’s funny the ways you’ll hear about a book. In the case of Giller Prize longlister Em, I first heard of it from a Swedish bookstagrammer because apparently it was translated from the original French into Swedish long before an English translation was published in Canada. The publishing world is weird. At any rate, she raved about it and I can see why.

Em is a very short book but it covers a lot of time and distance. Using short vignettes written in very spare prose, Thuy takes a child’s eye view of much of the twentieth century history of Vietnam, first colonized by the French and then subsequently ravaged by the 20-year US-led war. Thuy’s stories of various characters weave slowly back and forth with the strands eventually weaving together in more or less the present day. Interspersed between the characters’ stories, Thuy educates the reader’s head as well as her heart, including explanatory passages that describe events such as Operation Babylift in almost journalistic language. 

I was glad to see Em on the Giller’s longlist as it sheds light on the long-reaching effects of conflicts such as this. While the Vietnam War officially ended in 1975, its impact has been life-changing for so many from that time forward. A short but powerful work juxtaposing individual lives against the geopolitical forces of war and colonization, Em explores how these actions ripple through generations irrevocably changing lives and futures.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Canadian English edition has been translated by Sheila Fischman.
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I received an e-arc of em by Kim Thuy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Kim Thuy weaves a story of interconnected characters through the history of Vietnam. It was at once a lush yet simplistic narrative and also a brief history through these personal narratives. From the rubber plantations to life in Saigon and the ways the end of the Vietnam War contributed to the global movement and diaspora of the Vietnamese people. I was pulled in by the characters and how they were all connected and interwoven into one another’s stories while also finding myself learning and understanding more about the Vietnam war, or the American War - depending on your point of view. This is by no means a history book - nor does Kim Thuy drag out the narrative. Chapters are short yet effective. It is horrifying yet hopeful at the same time. It is a reminder to us that real and personal histories play out as the big powers in the world play out their histories. While the two may be aligned and affect one another, it is ultimately the personal histories who feel the impact and are forever changed. Such a powerful and quick read. Highly recommend but read with caution.
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Longlisted for the 2021 Giller Prize, this short book is read by the author and packs a powerful punch! Only 3hrs long and 150 pages, the author manages to cover a wide swath of Vietnamese history, focusing on the lives many people I knew little about and the far-reaching impact of the Vietnam war. Especially moving were the stories about Operation Babylift, where thousands of biracial children were sent to America to be adopted by largely white families. There is also a lot of death in this book, the author does not shy away from talking about the atrocities Vietnamese people endured during the war. But amidst the trauma and pain, there are also stories of courageous people doing brave things to save others. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Ann Shin's The last exiles or Ly Tran's House of sticks. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy!
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4.5 stars.
With spare prose, and vivid, sometimes startling, sometimes horrifying, imagery, author Kim Thúy writes of the beginning hostilities in Vietnam, to the lives of two adult orphans many years after. Thúy begins the book's action with a French rubber plantation owner and the local woman intending to bring him down. The author follows their daughter Tâm, and later two other characters who are orphans and the children of local women and US soldiers, (one of the orphans is the child of Tâm).

Each short chapter felt almost like a tiny, self-contained story or episode in the war and aftermath; Thúy recounts each in tightly-written prose, with each chapter ending with a character or an idea, that is followed up in the succeeding chapter. The overall tone a little dream-like, even while describing the horrors of actions committed by soldiers, or governments.
For all the book's short length and beautiful writing, the content is not easy to read. And it shouldn’t be, considering the huge loss of life, lingering health problems in the Vietnamese population from US chemical attacks, and the Vietnamese populations scattered worldwide due to war.

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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I really loved Em! I tend to gravitate towards anything by Kim Thuy and this is amazing and well-worth the read. Kim Thuy is an excellent author and this is spectacular!
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Em had one of the best writing that I’ve ever read. The English translation was done really well for this French book. Though at times it was hard to understand what was going on and sometimes left me confused, the story, which I think is based on a true story, left me in awe and utter shock as well.
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Kim Thúy's “Em” is a work of unsettling yet poetic words capturing the essence of the greatest act of resistance: love. 
The word em refers to the little brother or little sister in a family; or the younger of two friends; or the woman in a couple. I like to think that the word em is the homonym of the verb aimer, “to love,” in French, in the imperative: aime.
In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon.
A short novel exposing the history and trauma and war time Vietnam. Violent, dark, sad, eye-opening and … uplifting.  Once again I am reminded of my privileged life and thankful for authors that write hard truths, educate and bring awareness. 
What message can be found here?  Perhaps that is where there is evil, there can be beauty and love.
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