Book Review ~ The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Summary ~ The powerful and enduring work of fiction about men and war– now with more than two million copies in print. 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.


I’ve said this before.  I believe that reading historical accounts be it memoirs, biographies or historical fiction is very important for our futures.  We, as a society and members of the human race, will always learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and reading things like The Things They Carried is a great way to do that.  The Vietnam War continues to affect Vets, families and countries.  The veterans of the Vietnam War live among us but face haunting memories everyday. Author Tim O’Brien allows us to take a look into his memory, as well as fellow soldiers from his platoon who lived through hell on earth during the Vietnam War. 

The Things They Carried was full of disgusting and disturbing stories of death, combat and possibly the worst conditions I could never have imagined.  Tim O’Brien’s book is also full of brotherly love that goes soul deep and laughter.  War happens, unfortunately, and before recent times it was our brothers, sons, fathers and uncles who fought on the battle lines.  One of my uncles was one of the lucky few who didn’t face battle during the war in Vietnam, but instead was drafted to help build churches in Vietnam because of his skills.  I have friend and former teacher from college who wasn’t so lucky.  He lost many friends to gunfire and unknown horrors and has lived with those memories all these years.  Thunder and lightning storms can create otherworldly horrors for him when we just hear and see nature’s fury.  

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories from various magazines that were published in the eighties as well as short stories that when put together in this book create a story telling experience that transports the reader to the rice paddies, mountains and jungles of Vietnam during one of our countries most unpopular wars.  The men in this book, who’s stories Tim O’Brien tells so vividly, mostly started out as boys who were either drafted or had a dream of fighting for their country.  The stories will hit you and stay with you.  That’s a good thing, though some stories can be upsetting.  

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}