Guest Review: GOING AFTER CACCIATO by Tim O’Brien

Mary Simonsen, author of Searching for Pemberley and The Second Date, recently submitted a review for our 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.  Please give her a warm welcome as she reviews Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien.

In its simplest form, Going After Cacciato is about a soldier who goes AWOL during the Vietnam War and the squad that is sent out into the jungles and rice paddies to bring him back. After that, there is nothing simple about this book because Paul Berlin, the leader of the squad, and his men are told that Cacciato is headed for Paris.

The story moves back and forth between the real and the fantastic. When Berlin is in the observation post, the story describes past events that Berlin has seen. His fellow soldiers die in rice paddies or while clearing tunnels where the Viet Cong are waiting for them. But then there are the fantasy chapters in which Berlin’s squad is on the trail of Cacciato as he leads them to Paris, freedom, and a sane world.

The story takes place in 1968, the year of the Tet offensive, when the United States was taken by surprise with attacks on Hue and Saigon by the combined forces of the Viet Cong, who used guerilla tactics, and regular army forces from North Vietnam, and which exposed the weakness of using a traditional military strategy in guerilla warfare. It was the year that people at home started to ask the question, “What are we doing there?”

Going After Cacciato is a brilliant novel about young Americans who were asked to fight in a war where “Victory” was an ill-defined concept and against an enemy who moved freely among you during the day and tried to kill you at night. No place was safe; there was no “behind the lines.” For some, the only way to escape the madness was to withdraw into a world of fantasy, very much like Alice in Wonderland and her rabbit hole, and to follow one soldier all the way from Vietnam to Paris.

Thanks, Mary. We appreciate your guest review.

**Attention participants:  Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks so much, Mary! We really appreciate your contribution to our site.

    This book is one that I plan to read for the challenge!

    –Anna


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