This is the true story of O'Brien' s experience as he was drafted into the war, and his own feelings as he tried to figure a way out. Instead of finding a way out he found part of himself he didn't know existed. Of course, this didn't mean he was happy about it, nor did he start thinking he was a willing or good soldier. Yet, O'Brien survived while so many he was with didn't. There is a bit of mourning in the book, as O'Brien describes each death, some with heart behind it and some with a sense of normalcy.
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I enjoyed his novel The Things They Carried. While I understand The Things They Carried was most likely fiction, I felt there was a little more heart in it, which may be part of how the stories work. I mean, if we look at the two books, the deaths of some of the soldiers are described as if they just happened, and this might be how it is when one is in actual war. One death becomes another death and another death is only one more day. War causes people to become numb to life and death, but often to hope for more life.
This was an honest look at a young man, and his torn ideologies, and not wanting to disappoint his family. He tries to be okay with going to Vietnam, but he also tries to figure out a way to Canada, and someplace far away. I feel that many people might benefit from reading this book as it has insights about what a soldier might feel on his way to war. I feel especially these days, as we continue to send young men and women to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that it might give insight to people who know little to nothing about the military.
Now, this isn't to say this is the experience of every military member, as some are proud to go to war and represent the country. However, there are a lot of books out there about the honored soldier, and the man who died serving his country. There aren't a lot of books out there that represent those who are unwilling participants.
While I didn't enjoy this as much as I did The Things They Carried, I did enjoy it.
I am excited to say that I will be going to see a reading with Tim O'Brien in April. I can't wait to see the man who has enchanted me with his tales of Vietnam (and not in a wow, I want to go to Vietnam and war is cool type of way).