Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, I am headed out on a family vacation with my family and would like to load my Kindle with some good books for the long plane ride. Do you have some suggestions?  Devoted to My Kindle

Dear Devoted,  I recently read this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction: THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen and would certainly recommend it .    It is a beautifully written, shocking Vietnam War novel with a complex narrator- a young captain in the South Vietnamese army, born in the North to a teenage Vietnamese girl and a French priest. While chief aide to the General, who is head of the National Police, he is also a secret agent for the Communist North Vietnamese. With the fall of Saigon, the General flees with his family and loyal staff, including our young narrator.   When they arrive in Los Angeles, he continues his double life – obsequiously serving the General while regularly sending reports back to his handlers in Vietnam.  Life in 1975 Los Angeles is described in touching, at times humorous detail, as the General and his coterie adjust to his diminished status, but the novel soon takes a very dark turn. Our narrator finds himself forced to prove his loyalty to both sides by committing acts of incredible violence.  While a spy novel, a work of historical fiction, a portrait of a fascinating young man, this book is ultimately a chilling indictment of the absurdity of war. Recommended!

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