Spy vs. spy

The Sympathizer

This debut novel takes the post-war Vietnamese diaspora as its subject and divided loyalties as its theme in a first-person story that is both darkly funny and seriously tragic. In The Sympathizer (Grove Press; $26), University of Southern California professor Viet Thanh Nguyen chronicles the story of the Captain, a half-Vietnamese spy who is airlifted with American-allied leaders from Saigon. The Captain and one of his friends make their way to Los Angeles, where his spy work continues, informing the Vietnamese government of the activities of the General, who is using a pho restaurant to raise money for a counter-rebellion. The simple reality of a nation's former leaders working as janitors and liquor-store clerks—and still considered a threat by their victorious opponents—is stark and terrifying, but not nearly as difficult as the complete loss of trust that the Captain engineers.