Review of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

ISBN 0767902890 (ISBN13: 9780767902892)

The flawless audiobook presentation, read by none other than Bryan Cranston (of Malcolm in the Middle fame) was riveting. This is good storytelling, and a lesson on how to use repetition. It sheds light on nuanced emotions amid the chaos of wartime.

I‘ve always disliked war stories in general. They’re just not my thing. I found The Naked and the Dead difficult. I don’t understand the level of cruelty in these tales. They accomplish the depiction of human strength, endurance, weakness and moral outrage. But how is it possible to justify a bombing, a mine, or the massacres that have occurred in every era of history? I’m always thinking, why is our civilization doing this? I’m no historian. I don’t know a lot about Vietnam. But I believe I can appreciate some of the contradictions, the hypocrisy and the tragedy. Maybe Hollywood has ruined my perception. It is safe to assume that those who had a personal connection with the time and events will get slightly more out of the literature it produced.

Luckily, Tim O’Brien’s book really comes off as authentic. Vietnam was another troubling time in history, and the author has a lot to say about war and the damage it has done on the psyches of the Americans involved. The author’s account at the end added even more food for thought.

This is an affecting, powerful, immersive book. A well-written chronicle, limited in scope, but all the more memorable for the idiosyncratic characters and clear, crystalline voice.

This book does its job. It captures attention, widens understanding, it engages the heart and mind. I doubt I will find a more effective war story anytime soon.

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