Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

A few days ago I read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It was recommended to me by my English teacher last year, and I must say, it was an excellent recommendation.

For those of you who haven't heard of this book, it's a novel compiled of a series of short stories. But they all connect with each other, making one big story. It's really a brilliant idea. Tim O'Brien is a Vietnam veteran, and these short stories are all based off his experiences in Vietnam.

Here's a synopsis I pulled off the web:

"One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have.
 We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves.

With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried  is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive." 

Here's the url if any of you are interested in reading it on your own, or buying it off Amazon:

I won't give away any spoilers on here, but I will say this. This book can change your life. It moved me to tears, and I was crying -- more like on the verge of bawling -- for a good half hour. You can't put this book down. O'Brien has so many life-lessons in this book, and you can learn so many things from reading it. I recommend it to everyone, honestly. It's not graphic, the only content is a bit of swearing, but nothing extreme. It's not like any other war story I've ever read. 

So read it! And if you like it, let me know. Or if you hated it, let me know. I want to know what you all thought of this book, and if it was worth your time; it was definitely worth mine. 


Rating: 5/5 stars

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