There’s a saying in libraries, “Every book, its reader.”* Indeed, every piece of writing is a unique experience for each reader. For me, the beauty of The Things They Carried is its humanity. Tim O’Brien conveys the intensity and subtlety of those who experience war first-hand with powerful descriptions of what lies beyond death counts and political decisions.
Several passages from this book will stick with me for a very long time, such as,
“And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains to do things you are afraid to do. It’s about love and memory. It’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen” (p. 85).
This book is exquisitely crafted, expressing at once such depth, beauty, and terror. To write a war story in this way is a great artistic feat and a profound tribute to the service and courage of those who endure the most grueling of circumstances.
* Ranganathan, S.R., The Five Laws of Library Science, Bombay: Asia Pub. House, 1963.