Quick Book Review - The Things They Carried

The Good - Superb writing. It made me think - a lot. More than just about war.

The Bad - I tend to be a non-fiction reader. Maybe it doesn’t matter if any of what he wrote really happened, but I don’t know, I would like to have known what was real and what wasn’t. Guess it doesn’t matter.

Verdict - 4 stars

Perhaps because it’s the last story and what’s closest to my mind now that I’ve finished the book, but it made me think about my friend Justin.

When we got back to school after Christmas break in 2nd grade I remember having a class meeting, of sorts, to say that Justin was sick. He lived around the corner. He lived and breathed baseball. He was Eric Davis among our group. He could hit, he could run, he could throw. He was a joy to be around.

Justin’s mom made sure we knew that we could still come around as long we weren’t sick. So we’d go over and hangout. I remember sitting on his back patio with him. His energy was gone. This must have been in the spring. As a 2nd grade kid I never thought about life and death, I didn’t know anything about leukemia, never thought about losing a friend.

The summer between 2nd and 3rd grade we were out playing baseball. A new glove. An old bat. Green grass. Blue sky. A few puffy white clouds. The hot sun shining down. A friend from across the street comes over.

“Justin just died.”

“Hey, let’s play some more baseball. That’s what Justin would want us to do.”

“Yeah, he would. Let’s play.”

“I bet he could have played for the Reds.”

“I know he would have.”

“Well, right now,” she said, “I’m not dead. But when I am, it’s like…I don’t know, I guess it’s like being inside a book that nobody’s reading.”

“A book?” I said.

“An old one. It’s up on a library shelf, so you’re safe and everything, but the book hasn’t been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody’ll pick it up and start reading.”

If nothing else The Things They Carried made me pick up Justin’s book. For that I am thankful.

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About Nick Howard
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