The Things They Carried
By Tim O’Brien
Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780547391175, March 2010, 233pp.
The Short of It:
When it comes to storytelling, memory alone can be unreliable.
The Rest of It:
Depicting the men of Alpha Company Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O Brien, who survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three the stories in The Things They Carried opened our eyes to the nature of war in a way we will never forget.
At times, this collection felt very real to me. O’Brien served in Vietnam so the level of detail included in each story really gives you a sense of what it was like there, but there are also some implausible things that take place that remind you that it is indeed a work of fiction. Nevertheless, as a book club read it was an interesting book to discuss.
Memory. How important it is in telling stories like these? Does it really matter if the stories were based on actual events? In this case, no. If O’Brien’s purpose was to give us an idea of what it was like to be on the lines, then I’d say that the author succeeded. The details are grisly and O’Brien doesn’t hold back when sharing the cruel side of human nature. A couple of the stories feature animal cruelty that nearly all of us had a tough time getting through. Overall, the horrors of war were made very clear.
I do not enjoy war stories (at all) but I did find this book to be very readable and it was an excellent book to discuss with a group.
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