Monday, August 15, 2016

Review ~ The Things They Carried ~ Tim O'Brien

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Release Date: December 29, 1998
Genre: Adult, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Borrowed from Sky's shelf
Rating: 5 Bookworms
Challenges: #BookishResolutions, #COYER, #ShelfLove

They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O'Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

"I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth." ... "What stories can do, I guess, is make things present." Tim, pg 171-172
The Things They Carried was powerfully told and emotionally engaging. It's a story of war but also of self-discovery. This book is technically a work of fiction, but it's rooted in truth and relevant -- extremely relevant. I was shocked, actually, to think of the similarities and parallels between the social and political climate of the 60's and that of today. But that quote above? That's the importance of this story being told. Also, 
"But this too is true: stories can save us." Tim, pg. 213
That's why this story needed to be told. In The Things They Carried stories were not only a way of keeping things - truths, ideas, each other - alive during the war but afterward they were a way of keeping the soldiers alive in death as well.
"Well, right now," she said, "I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like...I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading.""A book?" I said."And old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading."
I appreciated this analogy and it reiterated the importance of storytelling to keep the past - people, history, customs, and culture - alive. But I also think storytelling is cathartic for the storyteller. And Tim O'Brien is a master! This book is amazing in that it made me feel, made me think, made me consider... It's an experience I won't soon forget and isn't that the point?


My older daughter requested I read this because it made such an impression on her. Thanks for asking me to read this, Sky, and for listening to me and chatting with me as it left its mark on me as well.

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