“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien ★★★★★

I was born too late to have a personal recollection of the Vietnam Era other than remembering seeing sporadic footage of the war while my dad watched the news. Basically my memory only pulls up images of Walter Cronkite so seriously reporting the death tolls, etc.

I am so impressed by this book and even more so by the man behind it. There are various interviews of Mr. O’Brien online and a talk he gave at the Arlington Public Library about this book in particular that is worth watching.  He explains why he uses fictional accounts rather than just telling us exactly what his personal experiences were. It is for the purpose of the story and finding a better way to help us see, hear, feel what he felt.  He said if he told us that he lay on his bed at night tossing and turning about whether he should run away to Canada or go fight a war he didn’t believe in, it wouldn’t get his true angst across to us.  But the fact he used a fictional account of staying with Mr. Berdahl and what transpired as he looked across the water to Canada and the emotions he struggled with, we could get a better sense of the despair he felt when he made his decision in real life.  Same principle for his accounts of the war.

On his Facebook page, he recommends a website called BookDrum.com (which I’m so thrilled to find) that will be helpful to anyone reading this book as it gives descriptions of weapons, maps, terminology, cultural references, etc. mentioned in the book and helps clarify details which I, as a civilian who isn’t familiar with all things military, appreciate.

This book eloquently describes the emotions of fear (terror), anger, confusion, disillusionment, disgust, shame, grief, guilt, etc. that anyone fighting any kind of war must feel.  It is impossible to expect that young men and women could face these things and not come back changed.  It is also so strange to think that a platoon of soldiers were relying on someone only a few years older than them (Mr. O’Brien’s LT was only 24) to guide them.  How our soldiers stand up to the pressure is amazing to me.  It doesn’t matter what our personal beliefs are regarding war or the reasons for war, but the members of the military deserve our utmost respect for facing their fears and doing what is asked of them, whether right or wrong in their eyes or our own.

The Things They Carried quote

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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