“The Sympathizer” by Viet Than Nguyen

PattyRecommended by Patty

“Dear Boss,
Sorry but I can’t make it in today. I stayed up way too late last night with a really great book and this morning, I just have to see what happens next.”
Am I right? (But don’t think that just because I work at a library I can get away with that!)The Sympathizer
You know that exciting moment when you’re 20 pages in on a new book and you’re just beginning to get the idea that this one may be really great?
That’s how I felt about “The Sympathizer” by Viet Than Nguyen. It’s everything I’m looking for when I crack open a new book: a subject I don’t know much about but wish I did; “real” characters from whom I might also learn something; and the vital ingredient – good writing.
Nguyen’s sentences are paragraphs that I read over and over so I could unpack all the language and meaning and savor the imagery.
On vodka: “The beautiful Stolichnaya maintained a stoic Russian demeanor as we regarded it in silence. Every full bottle of alcohol has a message in it, a surprise that one will not discover until one drinks it.”
On Vietnamese soldiers and generals now refugees in America: “Seeing them again in mufti confirmed the verdict of defeat… They squeaked around in bargain-basement penny loafers and creased budget khakis, or in ill-fitting suits advertised by wholesalers for the price of buy-one-get-one-free. Ties, handkerchiefs and socks were thrown in, though what was really needed was cologne, even of the gigolo kind, anything to mask the olfactory evidence of their having been gleefully skunked by history.”
That’s funny. And also sad. Made me think.
The story in this best-selling, award-winning debut novel is told by a Vietnamese double-agent working for the Communist revolution. Get the details here.
IMO, it’s compelling (I’d say about 2 a.m.) and also kinda convoluted but wow, really worth it.

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