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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Vietnam war was complicated.  We got into it for the wrong reasons, we stayed in it far too long, and the fact that we were losing from the get go led us to do unspeakable things there.  This book begins at the very end of the war.  The South Vietnamese general in charge of the evacuation has delegated a trusted person to make the choices.  The general doesn’t know it, but the captain he’s put in charge of those decisions is, in fact, a Viet Cong spy. 

The unnamed narrator is being sent to America with the top brass for the other side in order to keep an eye on them in their new land.  He is resigned to his task, but there are a number of things about it that he does not anticipate.  The first is the tremendous fall from glory that they will all go through.  The general does have plans to reorganize his supporters and resume the fight with the communists, but in reality he is struggling to make a living and lacks both the time and the resources to mount a fight in the country he abandoned.  The other is that America changes all the players.  The third is that the narrator is a sympathetic man, making the title of the book a double entendre.  The book is well written and thought provoking, and well worth a read.

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