I was so stunned by this book, I've had a hard time formulating what to say. O'Brien starts the book by telling us, in detail, the material things that soldiers carried in the Vietnam War. Quickly he moves into telling us about the profound things that soldiers carried during and after the war. Things = Stories. The stories men tell to each other, the stories men tell to themselves and the stories they carry with them for the rest of their lives. They are constantly telling stories, and there seems to be an obsession about sorting out what's true and what's an embellishment or a downright lie. War heightens all senses, and I imagine it is almost impossible to stay clear on what's real and what isn't in the stories they tell over and over and as the actual experience of it recedes into the past. Their stories and the telling of them are both a balm and a curse.
As I read The Things They Carried, I kept questioning if this was a fictional account of O'Brien's experiences before, during and after the war or if it was a series of related non-fiction essays. That question was answered when after the book ended, there was an hour left which was devoted to O'Brien reading an essay he did for the NY Times about his return to Vietnam in 1994. It was clear then that the book was fiction.
I thought O'Brien's writing was outstanding. Equally outstanding was how Bryan Cranston brought his writing to life. I listened to most of this on a long car trip and felt transported by his storytelling to another dimension. While most of the book takes place in Vietnam, he also tells of his life before and after the war, which creates context and understanding. I often complain that authors don't know how to end their book - not so here. The ending was exquisite and poignant.
I'm not sure this book is for everyone. Parts were hard to listen to and brought tears to my eyes. This was especially true when listening to the author read his essay of his return to Vietnam. But I thank you, Tim O'Brien, for telling your story.
A well told biography about Viet Nam, the experience, the real people and how they felt before, during and after the war. Many first hand accounts are documented by the author and those that he served with. Cranston's narration was superb.... one of the best I've heard.
I just achieved App Scholar!! 1000 hours in 1 yr 7 mo and 10 days!!! I never thought I would make it this far!! Thanks Audible
This book starts off really good telling you about the things they carried into battle in the Vietnam War. The book goes into the stories told by the soldiers and letters they wrote. The lives before the war then after!!!! The War changed them forever.
In fact I've already listened to my favorite chapter "On the Rainy River" again when I played it to my wife. Would I listen to the whole book again? — I doubt it... it's great, but there are of course so many more that I haven't heard yet. I will however most likely read/listen to more by Tim O'Brien.
The chapters have recurring characters and there are connections, but each works as a stand-alone. The book is captivating from start to finish with many great moments, but my favorite chapter was "On the Rainy River" which is before the war. I found that one to be most stirring and emotional.
I suspect I'd enjoy Bryan Cranston reading yellow pages. He does an amazing job here.
When listening I actually forgot that there was an additional reading by the author at the end. So I was a little disappointed when the book was over all of a sudden with the next chapter being that additional recording. I felt a little cheated and robbed of savoring the ending had I known it was coming. But that aside the "The Vietnam in Me" read by the author is very moving and was a welcome addition.
Having listened to parts of it back in high school, it was great to listen to it at full length. This was actually better than some of of the audio books I have gotten.
The author relayed exactly what it was like for these young soldiers to experience a war that many did not believe in but felt torn / obligated to participate in to defend their personal honour and their country. It was so insightful and the anguish was so palpable. Each character introduced came alive. It was brutal in that I had to compare the decisions that my own son would have to make.
I listened to this book twice in succession to just get everything and not miss a single section. If I had to choose, it would be where the author tries to flee to Canada and meets up with the old man who helped him make his decision. How eternally grateful I would be if I was a parent of this son and had this man guide my boy through this terrible and emaotional time.
This book is one of the most profound audible experiences I have had.
I was stricken with a case of literary seasickness in listening to this book. The author stitched together a bunch of stories in an incoherent way that left the pitch and roll of this disorganized work most difficult to understand. Worse still, some of the stories, particularly the implausible and belabored recount of a soldier who imported his girlfriend to the front lines, strained credulity beyond the breaking point. Narcissistic diversions into what a "real war story" is or should be was another distraction that did little to help this allegedly authentic personal memoir limp across the finish line.
Save your money.
First, reader Bryan Cranston is a genius performer, bringing O'Brien's book to life without upstaging it.
Read O'Brien's "Cacciato" first. Found it brilliant, if flawed, overall vastly rewarding.
This one is different. Literate as before, clever in blurring the line between fiction and what actually happened as a way to explore the truth of Vietnam and war. But there's a streak of cri de coeur throughout, especially in the afterword read by O'Brien. That makes you want to help him, but it diminishes his spellbindingness as either a chronicler of what happened in Vietnam factually or a storyteller conveying the truth of the War his own way. The work winds up being a little solipsistic, a problem for me.
However, the book worked in an episodic way, where parts were knockouts, mixed in with parts that weren't. The characters worked, probably because O'Brien drew them from life, guys like Kiowa. Anyone who served (I did) will recognize the way GIs talk and behave, whether what's going on in the book actually happened that way or O'Brien's improvement on that. Either way, enough of it worked that I'm glad to have listened to the book.
Retired educator, long-time reader
Yes--it gives so much insight into the lives and deaths of war.
The narration really appealed. Cranston's voice is so well-modulated that it almost seemed conversational.
Verbal phrases and the time frame with which I was familiar
No--I needed to think about what I had just heard. However, because of the repetition, I sometimes thought I had mistakenly gone back in the book.