Title: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O' Brien
The Things They Carried, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is a marvelous collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam war. War stories are particularly disturbing, especially if it deals with the emotional turmoil rather than the gory details of blood and murder. In this exceptional blend of fiction and truth, Tim evocatively captures the horrors, nightmares, fear and anguish the soldiers endured in the war field, which makes it an utterly compelling read.
The things they carried not only included the rifles, ammunition, grenades, radios and machine guns but also the emotional burden of grief, terror, anguish, love, photographs, memories and reputations. In the war field, they carried out all orders without a question. They plodded their way through toe poppers, booby-traps and mine fields, searched dark ghostly tunnels, dug foxholes to hide at nights, fought bugs and killed enemies yet the war just choked them with fear and boredom that sometimes they wished they could just shoot off their toes, or kill themselves just so they could be carried away from the war. "By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost."
When Tim received a draft to fight the war he hated, he felt that the war in Vietnam was wrong and unethical. He quotes "Knowledge,of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can't fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can't make them undead". Even though his conscience wanted him to run off to Canada, he eventually went to war, because he was too ashamed not to fight. Having survived the war, in this book, he writes about various interesting but disturbing stories about his friends in the platoon.
Some passages from the book I liked in particular:
"When I'm out there at night, I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark--I'm on fire almost--I'm burning away to nothing--but it doesn't matter because I know exactly where I am."
"If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie."
"I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story."
Whether the war was fought for ethical reasons or not, it evokes unfathomable horrors in the minds of survivors leaving behind a scar in their memories forever!! A deeply engrossing book I would gladly recommend to anyone!!
My Rating: 4.5/5