Viet Thanh Nguyen starts his book, The Sympathizer, saying: “I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides.”
The novel gives us a important and unfamiliar perspective on the war from the point of view of a conflicted communist sympathizer who is a Captain in the South Vietnam army.
The story begins in 1975 with Saigon in chaos. A general in the South Vietnam army is deciding who will get seats on one of the last planes. His trusted Captain, whose name we never learn, is a double agent and the trusted assistant to the general. They make it to Los Angeles and start their new lives but the Captain is secretly reporting on the group to the leadership of the Viet Cong.
The Captain is the books narrator. He had a Vietnamese mother, and French Catholic priest father and was raised in Vietnam but attended college in the U.S.
The book gives a different focus to this war and the events that followed it.
“If youth was not wasted, how could it be youth?” ...
“I could live without television, but not without books.” ...
“We don't succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. ...
“While it is better to be loved than hated, it is also far better to be hated than ignored.”