Monday, July 29, 2019

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Second Book Club, Book #4

This book was beautifully written. Whether or not you like novels within the military genre (I usually don't,) this is a must-read for the way the author weaves language together to create the perfect flow. 

Poignant words and powerful stories create a snapshot of the Vietnam War. Life over there, loss over there, survival over there. The emotional overload of war for any one person. A complete journey into war, from this most unique perspective. The realities of Vietnam aren't necessarily within the stories shared here, but the real feelings and fears, ups and downs are conveyed. You see into the puzzling experience war was for a young man, forced into a situation where the art of survival vastly changes.

As a collection of stories, The Things They Carried isn't about what actually happens to this one troop of soldiers, but rather what feelings evoked in you as the reader through your experience. O'Brien even goes so far to question the truthfulness of his own stories while he's telling them. What's true is of so little importance when compared with what was felt, what feelings never go away.

I think the point of this book is the same point that all war stories should have -- there's no moral. There's nothing to learn here about history or the human experience within war. We already know wars are horrible, and that Vietnam was a particular kind of harsh. We know soldiers came back traumatized and damaged in ways that an entire lifetime may not repair. What we're given here is what's often missing during war -- the connection between those really experiencing it and those continuing to live at home. Reaching out through the emotional baggage they're forced to carry into war and then bring home, we're given unique insight into this experience. It almost puts the residual effect of war, from a soldier's perspective, on a level, emotional playing field.

O'Brien's beautiful language and expertly composed stories didn't help me understand war, instead it opened the tiniest window into what it felt like to be there. That level of access, even through fiction, made such an impression and brought together an amazing read.

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