The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It took me a while to read this book, and I'm not sure why. It's not very long, but it seemed really dense. I'm not sure I could have told you if I liked the book as I was hearing it, but somewhere towards the end, I just fell in love. I think it was when he told about the girl who went to Vietnam and became addicted to it. That part rang so true that the whole thing, all the talk about war stories and how they didn't have to be true, it all fell into place. I understood what he meant. Just as there is truth in fiction, truth to the stories, truth to the characters, so could a war story be true even if it wasn't, in the strictest sense, factual in all parts.
After the story of Maryanne (pardon if I'm a little off on names, I listened to this one so my spelling might not be correct), I wanted to hear all about the rest of the characters. And it was the characters who really made this story. It's not so much a story, in the linear-progression, plot-arc kind of way. But all the stories together made something beautiful. I wanted to hear all about Jimmy and Henry, about the suicides and the 'accidents,' about the medics and Tim and the shit-fields and, yes, the things they carried. It didn't matter a bit which parts actually happened.
Really the book wasn't so much about what happened or didn't happen, it was about the characters and about humanity, about maintaining humanity in the face of the most horrid circumstances, about finding joy in the sickest places imaginable, about the horror and pettiness and cowardice and beauty not of war, but of the human spirit and of life.
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