“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future.”
Tim O’Brien was a soldier in the Vietnam War. Drafted despite an acceptance in graduate school, he was reluctant to go and contemplated going to Canada to dodge his draft notice. The book is a series of essays exploring what he saw, did and felt during this period of his life. He admits taking liberties with some of the facts to create a story that captures the feeling he wants to convey.
I honestly don’t remember how I stumbled upon this book. There was a decent wait for it at the library and I borrowed it as an e-book. I thought it would focus more on what items people carried with them during war, but it was more about war’s long-term affect on people’s minds, bodies and souls.
The Things They Carried is a very heavy book. O’Brien describes when people in his unit die and a few of their kills. The most striking essay is when a soldier in their unit ends up drowning in a field that the local village uses as their “outhouse” area. The stories are haunting because that time of life seems to haunt the author. The book almost seems like a type of therapy for O’Brien.
I would recommend this book for older readers as it deals graphically with war and its toll on its participants. I found it hard to read in some sections. However, anyone who wants to better understand someone who served in Vietnam would find insight in this book.