Monday, August 11, 2014

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

A Love Story

I've watched very little war movies, much less read about them, even lesser about the experiences of the people who toured NAM. I wouldn't have read this book and got introduced to Tim O'Brien if this was not a dared book from the TFG challenge earlier this year.

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED is a great book that engages the reader with its unique format. It’s neither a novel, nor a collection of short stories, but rather a composition of story fragments that are interconnected completing an experience beyond profound. O'Brien tells the stories, and then re-tells them while changing some bits of facts; afterward, he tells the reader that the stories are made up, but still true. These constant contradictions of fiction and reality challenge the reader to suspend disbelief and focus more on the impact of war on the human soul, rather on the mundane details of war. This is a work of fiction, and yet, the stories capture the heart with its undeniable truth.

“By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain.” 

The words simply flow on its accord, letting the reader drift into the story and forget to put the book down. I read this book in less than 5 hours in one sitting. Some stories are really hard to read due to conflicting emotions and philosophy of morals. But O'Brien insisted that these are not war stories, but love stories that needed to be told again and again.  I agree with him because stories like this needed be held with love in remembrance of the irretrievable pieces that the soldiers left in Vietnam.

"Over the years, that coldness had never entirely disappeared. There were times in my life when I couldn't feel much, not sadness or pity or passion, and somehow I blamed this place for what I had become, I blamed it for taking away the person I had once been. For twenty years this field had embodied all the waste that was Vietnam, all the vulgarity and horror."

I was so affected by these stories; I believe that I may never listen to the Lemon Tree song the same way again.

Thank you, Patrick, for lending me your copy.

Book details:
Title: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O'Brien
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication: October 13, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★


  1. Hmm. It's interesting that you finished this within five hours in one go. It must be that good. I think I'm going to bump this up my reading list.

    1. It is. And it was raining hard outside when I read this. :)