Email me at

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

"...and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry." (page 16)

Book Description from The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. While apparently based on some of O'Brien's own experiences, the title page refers to the book as "a work of fiction"; indeed, the majority of stories in the book possess some quality of metafiction. Many of the characters are semi-autobiographical, and readers of O'Brien's work will notice that some of the characters share similarities with characters from his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. O'Brien dedicated The Things They Carried to the men of the Alpha Company that he fought with during the war.

My Thoughts:
     First--This is THE book for children of Vietnam Veterans or family members of Vietnam Veterans to read. A collection of stories told from O'Brien's keen observations of the psychology of the soldier, The Things They Carried is a powerful, emotional, and raw telling of a journey that remained endless for many of the servicemen who experienced this war.
     A Vietnam Veteran himself, O'Brien gracefully guides the reader through the jungle and home again. The writing is spectacular. Each sentence is crafted with such a creative alignment of words that there is a sense of poetry to the work. The Things They Carried provides those who were not there and the generations that follow with the descriptions that will never find their way into the history books--- what REALLY happened.
     Beyond the necessities and weaponry, personal items and useful tools, it is the weight of the visions and actions that became the heaviest burden of all.
     I look forward to reading all of O'Brien's other books. He is a gifted writer and we are left to question the art that could have been created by those who did not survive and those that returned home but never found their way back to the life they had known. They carried far too much.

"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, and I blamed it for taking away the person I had once been." (page 185)

My Dad in 1970 before leaving for Vietnam.


  1. I read this on a list of recommended books when I was just out of school, and I still remember it as very powerful. Nice review.

  2. I thought this one was really powerful. I wasn't expecting to like it but I did!

  3. Thanks for linking this in, Rebecca. Have a nice weekend

  4. Interesting..thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole's November Books I Loved. I am in that list as #4.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  5. This book was assigned reading in one of my history courses in college (a decade ago), and I also remember thinking it was such a powerful book. It sticks with you. It's probably one I should pick up and read again.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin