The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago. A new regime rose from the battlefields. Families like mine fled across the Pacific. Many died at sea. Others wish they had. There’s no happy ending to this story—not when the losers ceaselessly obsess over their defeat by a people they regard as having little value for human life. This obsession, of course, dominates the ways Americans tell and retell their “intervention” in the Vietnamese peoples’ struggle for freedom. It obscures a story about Vietnamese people, their triumphs and tragedies, by placing the United States, its imperial imperatives, its altruism and delusional exceptionalism, at the center of the narrative. But Viet Thanh Nguyen’s shimmering debut novel, The Sympathizer, calls our attention back to the war’s primary actors. It opens a complex world where no one is on the “right side” of history. Leaping with lyrical verve, each page turns to a unique and hauntingly familiar voice that refuses to let us forget what people are capable of doing to each other.