The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a beautifully crafted meditation on war, friendship, and memory filled with passages that are gorgeously lyrical in their descriptions while remaining completely accessible. Tim O’Brien fought in the Vietnam War, and is a character in the novel, but this isn’t touted as a true-life war story. It transcends a simple blow-by-blow account of one man’s experience in that devastating and polarizing conflict that was at the heart of so much social and political upheaval. Instead, at its core, The Things They Carried tries to make sense of the experience of war in the context of the rest of people’s lives. It explores how those times both color and define, but are simultaneously completely foreign to, the rest of their memories. Using a nonlinear style, O’Brien deftly portrays the power of memory to not only recall the good times, but also its stubborn refusal to jettison recollections of horror and death witnessed in war. In the end, it’s everything, the good and the bad, which defines us and therefore must be carried through life. A moving piece of literature that is relevant now more than ever.

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