Revisited by Kim Thùy, the Vietnam War is chiseled into a series of unforgettable moments, where shadow is inseparable from light.
What a special object that Kim Thùy’s latest novel! He is loaded with cruelty, and yet Em brings great appeasement. But if we insist on the softness of the tone, then it is the violence of the words that we fear to mitigate.
Ah! the author sets us a beautiful trap! “Betrayal complements heroism,” she wrote, presenting her story. But it takes quite a talent to feel the warmth of an outstretched hand just as humanity falls to its hollow. And that it all hangs by a thread.
This red thread which overflows from the box illustrating the cover and which enters the book to stretch through its pages demonstrates this.
The title is also meaningful. In Vietnamese, “em” means the youngest of the family or the youngest of a pair of friends, but phonetically, in French, it refers to the imperative of “to love”.
This title was chosen on purpose, says the author. There is love, but there is also the order to love.
It is thus armed that one enters the war.
The author drew on what really happened in Vietnam, but re-embroidered everything because, she writes, the stark reality would have been unbearable to read.
Or maybe it would have splashed our gaze too much, making it blind to what allows us to continue living.
Kim Thùy, she chose to focus on certain details of the horror and its side, and she describes them by putting on the page only the necessary words.
His novel develops in snatches that will lead to a touching duo: Louis, the street child, and em Hông, the baby he finds and for whom he decides to take care. He was only eight years old at the time.
It will last a few months, until a good soul, unaware of their situation, separates them. But since life has as many setbacks as it has good luck, Kim Thùy brings them together.
But, to get there, it will be necessary to go through the miseries of the rubber plantations in Vietnam, then through the massacres of the war, where babies are killed in their mother’s arms and where remorse also prevails.
Then there will be the frantic flight and the rescue operations – such as that of Vietnamese orphans sent to the United States; one of the planes, filled with children, will explode on takeoff.
The exile will be hard, but also the occasion of rebirth, as for these Vietnamese who, once released from the refugee camps, will invade the world of manicure. Or like these children with a new identity.
Adopted by an American couple, Hông was herself renamed Emma-Jade, but a stay in Montreal will make her want to rediscover her past. Other young Vietnamese will do the same.
The thread so fragile will therefore have been able to resist.