They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.
This is a surprisingly easy read – it lulls one into thinking that what’s being read is not significant and can be glossed over – but it cannot be. The words on the page are dripping with emotion -desire, fear, awe, despair – violence, beauty, horror, and gut-wrenching pain and unease. I didn’t think I would enjoy this one – usually not one for non-fiction, let alone one set during the Vietnam war, but I was pleasantly surprised by how emotionally involved and attached I became to the characters – and that’s quite difficult because the narrator is not very likable, as are some of the characters; their flaws are human flaws, which is, ironically, what I disliked about them. Anyway, to make a long-winded reaction brief – I enjoyed the book immensely, and at the most unexpected moments, I find scenes replaying in my mind’s eye – mostly unpleasant, but there’s a beauty – horrific beauty – that is paralyzing.