It was a banner week for Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (Grove Press, April 2015).
On Thursday night, it took home the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and shortly after, debuted on the NYT Paperback Trade Fiction Best Seller list, landing in the #9 spot, the first time it’s appeared on a NYT list (in hardcover, it was on the ABA IndieBound best seller list for six weeks, hitting a high of #24, and the L.A. Times best seller list for 2 weeks, but did not crack any other list).
Both of these events come just weeks after it won the Pulitzer in Fiction.. At that time the Guardian‘s headline described it as having done “from overlooked to Pulitzer winner,“ a bit of an overstatement. Although it had not won many prizes until the Pulitzer, it was a critical success (see Ron Charles’s review from the Washington Post), appeared on many end-of-the year best books lists and won ALA’s 2016 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
What makes this Pulitzer Prize winner, described by Library Journal as “a meditation on war, political movements, America’s imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one’s personal identity,” an Edgar contender? The main character is a double agent, a communist sympathizer who is an aide to a South Vietnamese general, so, while it is literary, it counts as a literary thriller. As Kirkus commented, “Think Alan Furst meets Elmore Leonard, and you’ll capture Nguyen at his most surreal,” further saying that the result is “Both chilling and funny.”
UPDATE: New York magazine declares something librarians have observed for some times, that genres are converging, under the headline, “The Sympathizer Won a Pulitzer and an Edgar, and May Herald the Great Literary Convergence.” The article verifies that this is the first time a book has won both a major literary prize and a genre prize.
In other Edgar news, Let Me Die in His Footsteps, Lori Roy (PRH/Dutton, June 2015) took home the honors for Best Novel while The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney (HC/William Morrow, Feb. 2015) won for Best Paperback Original.
Footer Davis Probably is Crazy, Susan Vaught (S&S/Paula Wiseman, March 2015) won for Best Juvenile and A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (HC/Katherine Tegan, Oct. 2015) took the Young Adult prize.
A full listing of all winners and nominees is online, a great resource for both RA and creating displays.