Wednesday, February 01, 2006

If I Die in a Combat Zone; Box Me Up and Ship Me Home


Category: War

Author: Tim O’Brien

Summary: O'Brien paints an unvarnished portrait of the infantry soldier's life that is at once mundane and terrifying--the endless days of patrolling punctuated by firefights that end as suddenly and inconclusively as they begin; the mind-numbing brutality of burned villages and trampled rice patties; the terror of tunnels, minefields, and the ever-present threat of death. Powerful as these scenes are, perhaps the most memorable chapter in the book concerns his decision to desert just a few weeks before he was sent to Vietnam but finds that he can’t do it. He went into the war opposing it and came out knowing exactly why. If I Die in a Combat Zone is more than just a memoir of a disastrous war; it is also a meditation on heroism and cowardice, on the mutability of truth and morality in a war zone and, most of all, on the simple, human capacity to endure the unendurable.

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