Growing Up Gronk: A Family's Story of Raising Champions by Gordon GronkowskiGrowing Up Gronk: A Family's Story of Raising Champions by Gordon Gronkowski

Growing Up Gronk: A Family's Story of Raising Champions

byGordon Gronkowski

Paperback | September 2, 2014

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Huge boys, huge dreams, huge success-how one family from Buffalo put five boys on the track to realizing their athletic potential and making it big"

"The beauty of Growing Up Gronk is that you never really have to grow up at all. A fascinating look inside a larger-than-life football family."- Dan Shaughnessy, best-selling author of Francona: The Red Sox Years

It is so statistically unlikely as to be almost unbelievable. Somehow, the Gronkowski family has produced three sons who play in the NFL (Rob, Chris, and Dan), one who was drafted into Major League Baseball (Gordie, Jr.), and another who is the starting fullback for Kansas State (Goose). Their father, Gordy, even played college football for Syracuse.

How did it happen? From an early age, Gordy realized the potential his sons had and worked with them to make the most of it. Beyond their monstrous size, physicality, and raw talent, he instilled in them a commitment to fitness, health, drive, and determination that would give his boys a leg up in ways other families simply couldn't match. And the boys' motivation certainly wasn't something solely triggered by a driven father. They were like a pack of adolescent wolves readying themselves for the recruiting hunt. Still, all were honor roll students; the three oldest earned college degrees. Each was motivated and inspired by his brothers. Competition and bragging rights were - and continue to be - a big part of what makes the Gronkowskis tick. Growing Up Gronk reveals the secrets to the Gronkowskis' astonishing collective success while opening the door to a lively, entertaining, one-of-a-kind household. "
The Gronkowski Family includes father, Gordy Gronkowski, who played football at Syracuse University and is president of G&G Fitness, his sons: Gordie, Jr. a professional baseball player who was drafted by the Angels; Dan, a tight end with the Cleveland Browns; Chris, a fullback with the Denver Broncos; Rob, a superstar tight end with t...
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Title:Growing Up Gronk: A Family's Story of Raising ChampionsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.6 inPublished:September 2, 2014Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0544334582

ISBN - 13:9780544334588

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1A Star Is Born    Gronked: To throw something down to the ground with great force, like football player Rob Gronkowski does after each touchdown. After I finished my exam, I Gronked my pencil in a show of exuberance.—Urban Dictionary   In September 2009, twenty-year-old Rob Gronkowski lay in bed, eyes directed at the sterile hospital ceiling. Just out of surgery, he felt like an anchor was strapped to his back. Movements were limited and tentative. A sudden shift drew sharp daggers raking against his spine. Pain had never been something he feared. Growing up in a house with four brothers, physical contact was a daily routine. As the starting tight end at the University of Arizona, he had both received and delivered major hits over the years. But this moment, coming out of surgery, was one of the most uncertain in his life.   There were legitimate questions about whether he would ever play football again. Rob never let those fears take root. Doctors had been optimistic, but there were no guarantees. And if not football, then what would he do?   The sport had defined Rob’s life. His father had been a college football player who briefly played in the United States Football League (USFL) in the early 1980s. His other brother Dan, a fellow tight end, had been drafted by the Detroit Lions, while another brother, Chris, transferred from the University of Maryland after two years to play fullback alongside Rob at Arizona. The sport ran through the family’s veins.   Even at a young age, Rob displayed freakish size and physical talent. He ended his senior year of high school as a six feet six SuperPrep All-American, developing blocking skills to complement eight receptions for 152 yards and four touchdowns. College-scholarship offers flooded his mailbox. In two years at Arizona, he set the school’s single-game, single-season, and career records as a tight end for receptions, yards, and touchdowns.   His personality was goofy, fun-loving. It was rare to see the big boy angry or depressed. He went through each day with a smile on his face, eager to be on the field where he could line up and hit someone. There was one dream, one goal, and he had been groomed for it since he was just a little kid. Rob planned to star in the NFL.   It couldn’t possibly be over, could it? “Robbie hurt his back in the weight room doing a dead lift,” his father Gordy explained. “It was the off-season after his sophomore year in college. He knew he was hurt, but thought it was just a sore back. He kept working out and running routes but was getting slower.”   Back issues were not without precedent in the Gronkowski family. Rob’s oldest brother, Gordie, an All-American baseball player, had suffered a herniated disk a few years earlier when in college. Once a promising major-league prospect, his injuries caused many teams to reconsider selecting him in the draft. The second brother, Dan, experienced occasional back spasms.   “I was definitely scared,” Rob recalled. “Pain started in April and kept getting worse and worse. I didn’t know what was going on, but I kept grinding harder because the harder you went, you didn’t feel the pain for that hour. Eventually, one day, it cut off my whole nervous system going into my legs. I couldn’t jump more than three inches. I kept going, but it was half-speed. I got it checked out and doctors discovered bulging and herniated disks.”   Having watched one son’s career veer off course because of this, Gordy wanted to be sure his other boys were protected. He had planned ahead for such a contingency.   “I took out a four-million-dollar insurance policy on Rob,” Gordy said. “The insurance company believed Rob had value because he was projected to be a first- or second-round NFL draft pick. I tried to get a policy for Chris, but I couldn’t. The company didn’t believe he had value.”   Rob’s injury occurred in the L5 vertebra, located in the lower back between the hips. In addition, an MRI revealed a closing of the spinal chamber. When Rob did not work out, the affected area settled and did not bother him. But how could a football player have a career in which he didn’t work out?   “Some doctors told us he shouldn’t play,” Gordy said. “Others said if the swelling goes down, he should be OK. And Rob at first tried to bluff and say he was fine before the surgery. But it reached a point where I could tell he was hurting, so I shut him down. He was done playing college football until this got fixed. I wasn’t making many friends in Arizona, but this is my kid, you know?”   No one was quite sure how to proceed, because when Rob relaxed and did not work out, the pain lessened. The injury was not debilitating. If Rob stopped training and playing football, he could live a comfortable life. But the professional opinion was that eventually, as he aged, Rob would need surgery to repair the spine.   Gordy searched for the best back specialist around. One name kept recurring: Robert Watkins, a doctor from California who’d performed surgery on athletes with injuries similar to Rob’s. The doctor laid out options.   “We went around and around about Rob’s surgery,” Gordy said. “He had choices. One was to not have surgery and never play football again but get four million dollars. The other was don’t collect the money but have surgery and hope that everything comes out right. It wasn’t an easy choice. It’s a serious operation. One slip down there and you’re dealing with the vertebrae and spinal cord.”   The insurance policy was both a blessing and a curse. If Rob elected to walk away from football, he would be financially set for life at only twenty years old. Even though he had played only two years of college football and sat out his junior year because of the injury, Rob was talented enough that the NFL was still interested. Could he forgo his junior year of college and make a leap to the pros despite surgery?   “Four million dollars is a lot of money,” Gordy mused. “With investments, I knew he could get five percent back in tax-free bonds. If he took the insurance policy, he could collect two hundred thousand tax-free every year. But if you have the operation it’s like rolling the dice.”   Rob ultimately made the decision: he didn’t want to become wealthy from an insurance policy. He preferred to earn it. Rob agreed to back surgery, knowing it was a perilous path: his body needed to remain straight and avoid sideways moves for six weeks afterward. Recovery would be difficult, with no guarantees.   “The money was not a consideration at all,” Rob said. “We were confident because of the doctor and his background. We knew he was the best. I never looked at the money option one bit. I just wanted to keep playing football, and that’s what I did.”   Gordy honored his son’s wishes, admiring his attitude. He and his former wife had raised their boys to work hard. None expected to be handed rewards without earning them.   “I had never had surgery, never been knocked out on anesthesia before, so it was scary,” Rob admitted. “For the first three days, my whole back was stiff. I wondered if I would heal, but you feel better every week. I just chilled for a month and a half, sitting on the couch. That’s basically all you can do.”   Bill Gorman is an assistant basketball coach at Williamsville North High School, where Rob played varsity basketball for three seasons. Like all of Rob’s coaches, Gorman recognized that he was dealing with a special athlete. But more than just winning games, he was concerned about educating Rob for a life in professional sports.   “We talked about the concept that as an athlete, any success you have can be taken from you in a second because of injury,” Gorman recalled. “When he told me he might not play anymore because of his back, I felt like crying. When you’re in the spotlight, things are going great, and things were going great for him. I told him that now he was going to find out who his true friends were.”   “He was nervous, there’s no doubt,” Gordy said. “But we never had a conversation about what he should do if he couldn’t play football. That’s not the way we think.”   The insurance policy was written in such a way that Rob could proceed with surgery and play for three games to test the recovery. If the injury was not healed, he could step away from the sport and still collect the money, although he could never play again. The surgery, however, was a calculated gamble.   “This is how I looked at it at the time,” Gordy recalled. “If he went back to college and the operation didn’t work, he had to leave the sport before the third game. If it wasn’t right in the second game, and he couldn’t play, we could still get money. I believed if he made it to the NFL and got past the third game, even into the fifth or sixth before something went wrong, he’d still get a year’s pay. It wouldn’t have been four million, but it would have given him something.” As any football fan knows, the story turned out well. Not only did Rob get through the surgery, he was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a rookie, catching ten touchdown passes. The following season, as a twenty-two-year-old, he shattered tight end records, recording ninety receptions, 1,327 yards, and seventeen touchdowns.   Along the way, Rob became a bona fide superstar. His signature ball spike after a touchdown became known as “Gronking,” a term that found its way into the Urban Dictionary. He sat for ESPN interviews. He created controversy by appearing shirtless in a photograph beside a porn star who was wearing his jersey, both of them smiling coyly. Rap singers referenced him in their lyrics. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be near Rob Gronkowski.   To look at Rob during that season, it was hard to imagine back pain had nearly brought him to a halt two years earlier. At 265 pounds, standing at six feet six inches, Rob has a square-shaped head topped by short brown hair, his features chiseled. He resembles Ivan Drago, the Russian heavyweight from Rocky IV, played by a young Dolph Lundgren. His neck is muscular, shoulders wide, biceps bulging. Simply put, Rob was bigger and stronger than most everyone else.   “Rob became an overnight rock star,” his father said, reflecting on the 2011 season. “I looked at the circus around him, and many times I thought, I can’t believe I raised this kid.”   Those who have known him for years are amused but not surprised by Rob’s breakout season. His personality is lighthearted and silly, but it masks a fiercely competitive fire that was nurtured by growing up with four brothers. His ascent into the NFL record books, many believe, is simply the next step in a natural progression.   “Rob just has this fun streak about him,” observed Mike Mammoliti, Rob’s high school football coach during his sophomore and junior years. “He was a big, happy-go-lucky kind of kid who just kept getting bigger.”   Mammoliti recalled one snapshot that embodied Rob’s personality. It was opening night at Williamsville North High School’s new athletic field.   “Rob was playing defensive end on the far side,” Mammoliti said. “The other team’s quarterback pitched the ball, and they ran a toss toward our bench. From the sideline, I saw Rob coming toward me, eyes as big as proverbial coke bottles, and he was smiling. He hit the runner and blew this kid up. He was laughing the whole time. He drove this kid two or three yards from the sideline all the way into our bench and then got up laughing. Robbie hit him while he was laughing and walked back to the huddle, laughing. I remember thinking, this kid just loves to play.” Despite his superstar status, Rob isn’t the first member of his family to experience athletic success. It’s doubtful he’ll be the last. With a tight-knit clan of one tough dad and five tough boys, growing up Gronk has always meant being pushed and pushing back, fighting and scrapping, showing off to gain bragging rights without letting their egos become inflated.   Considering all they have experienced, the results are impressive.   The story goes back to the 1970s, long before Gordy, the patriarch, had earned the nickname Papa Gronk.

Table of Contents

   Gronk Lineup ix
   Introduction: The Day the Dream Turned Real xiii

1. A Star Is Born 1
2. Gordy: Papa Gronk 11
3. The Evolution of Training 31
4. Gordie Jr.: Doesn’t He Know the Rest
of the Family Plays Football? 45
5. Mental Toughness 67
6. Dan: The Talented Workhorse 81
7. Competition and Physical Play 99
8. Chris: Brains and a Pedigree 115
9. A New Generation of Tight Ends 133
10. Rob: The Superstar 143
11. Rob Explodes 161
12. Goose: Greatness Expected 179
13. Get Gronked! 191

   Acknowledgments 201

Editorial Reviews

The best of these stories - and none is written with less than the sharp edge of honed vision - are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be. . . . It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come" - Los Angeles Times"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get . . . It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd." - Chicago Sun Times"In prose that combines the sharp, unsentimental rhythms of Hemingway with gentler, more lyrical descriptions, Mr. O'Brien gives the reader a shockingly visceral sense of what it felt like to tramp through a booby-trapped jungle, carrying 20 pounds of supplies, 14 pounds of ammunition, along with radios, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. . . . With 'The Things They Carried, Mr. O'Brien has written a vital, important book - a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well." - Michiko Kakutani, New York Times"[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war? .crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories." - New York Times, "Books of the Century""With The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien adds his second title to the short list of essential fiction about Vietnam. . . . [H]e captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers. But he goes much further. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places The Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war." - New York Times Book Review"When Going After Cacciato appeared out of nowhere to win the 1979 National Book Award, it seemed to many, myself included, that no finer fiction had, as of then, been written in the closing half of the 20th century - or was likely to be in the remaining years to come. The Things They Carried disposes of that prediction. . . . Tim O'Brien is the best American writer of his generation." - San Francisco Examiner'The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography . . . O'Brien's absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.' - The New Yorker"Rendered with an evocative, quiet precision, not equaled in the imaginitive literature of the American war in Vietnam. It is as though a Thucydides had descended from grand politique and strategy to calm dissection of the quotidian efforts of war. . . . O'Brien has it just right." - Washington Post"Powerful . . . Composed in the same lean, vigorous style as his earlier books, The Things They Carried adds up to a captivating account of the experiences of an infantry company in Vietnam. . . . Evocative and haunting, the raw force of confession." - Wall Street Journal"O'Brien has written a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background. Drenched in irony and purple-haze napalm, the Vietnam narrative has almost been forced to produce a new kind of war literature. The Things They Carried is an extraordinary contribution to that class of fiction. . . . O'Brien's passion and memory may have been his torment all these years, but they have also been his gift. . . . The Things They Carried leaves third-degree burns. Between itsrhythmic brilliance and its exquisite rendering of memory - the slant of sunlight in the midst of war, the look on a man's face as he steps on a mine - this is prose headed for the nerve center of what was Vietnam." - The Boston Globe"Simply marvelous ? A striking sequence of stories that twist and turn and bounce off each other . . . O'Brien has invented a tone of voice precisely suited to this war: it conveys a risky load of sentiment kept in check by both a chaste prose and a fair amount of comedy. . . . Wars seldom produce good short stories, but two or three of these seem as good as any short stories written about any war. . . . Immensely affecting." - Newsweek"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get. . . . The line between fiction and fact is beautifully, permanently blurred. It is the perfect approach to this sort of material, and O'Brien does it with vast skill and grace. ? It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd. I salute the man who wrote it." - Chicago Sun-Times"Consummate artistry ? A strongly unified book, a series of glimpses, through different facets, of a single, mysterious, deadly stone . . . O'Brien blends diverse incidents, voices, and genres, indelibly rendering the nightmarish impact of the Vietnam experience." - Andy Solomon, Philadelphia Inquirer"O'Brien has brought us another remarkable piece of work . . . The stories have a specificity of observed physical detail that makes them seem a model of the realist's art. . . . What finally distinguishes The Things They Carried is O'Brien's understanding of the nature of memory." - Miami Herald"This is writing so powerful that it steals your breath. ? It perfectly captures the moral confusion that is the legacy of the Vietnam War. . . . The Things They Carried is about more than war, of course. It is about the human heart and emotional baggage and loyalty and love. It is about the difference between 'truth' and 'reality.' It is about death - and life. It is successful on every level." - Milwaukee Journal"O'Brien's stunning new book of linked stories, The Things They Carried, is about the power of the imagination. . . . I've read all five of O'Brien's books with admiration that sometimes verges on awe. Nobody else can make me feel, as his three Vietnam books have, what I imagine to have been the reality of that war." - USA Today"I've got to make you read this book. ? A certain panic arises in me. In trying to review a book as precious as The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, there is the nightmare fear of saying the wrong thing - of not getting the book's wonder across to you fairly-and of sounding merely zealous, fanatical, and hence to be dismissed. If I can't get you to go out and buy this book, then I've failed you. ? In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder, life's tenuousness, life's importance." - Rick Bass, Dallas Morning News"O'Brien has unmistakably forged one of the most persuasive works of any kind to arise out of any war." - Hartford Courant"O'Brien succeeds as well as any writer in conveying the free-fall sensation of fear and the surrealism of combat." - Time"It's a marvelous and chilling book, and something totally new in fiction. A dramatic redefinition of fiction itself, maybe. It will probably be a bestseller and a movie, and deserves to be. It will be nominated for prizes, but I wonder if any prize will do it justice. Maybe a silver star for telling the truth that never happened, passionately, gracefully." - Charlotte Observer"The Things They Carried is more than 'another' book about Vietnam. ? It is a master stroke of form and imagery. . . . The Things They Carried is about life, about men who fought and die, about buddies, and about a lost innocence that might be recaptured through the memory of stories. O'Brien tells us these stories because he must. He tells them as they have never been told before. ? If Cacciato was the book about Vietnam, then this is the book about surviving it." - Richmond Times-Dispatch"Throughout, it is incredibly ordinary, human stuff-that's why this book is extra-ordinary. . . . Each story resonates with its predecessors, yet stands alone. The soft blurs with the hard. The gore and terror of Vietnam jungle warfare accumulate into an enormous mass." - Houston Chronicle"Even more than Cacciato, The Things They Carried is virtually impossible to summarize in conventional terms. If anything, it is a better book. . . . The novel is held together by two things: the haunting clarity of O'Brien's prose and the intensity of his focus. . . . O'Brien's stories are like nobody else's. His blend of poetic realism and comic fantasy remains unique. ? In short, critics really can't account for O'Brien at all. At least in part that's because his Vietnam stories are really about the yearning for peace - aimed at human understanding rather than some 'definitive' understanding of the war. . . . Just by imagining stories that never happened, and embroidering upon some that did, O'Brien can bring it all back. He can feel the terror and the sorrow and the crazy, jagged laughter. He can bring the dead back to life. And bring back the dreaming, too." - Entertainment Weekly"Brilliant. . . O'Brien again shows his literary stuff. . . . An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere collection of stories. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity." - Library Journal"One hell of a book . . . You'll rarely read anything as real as this." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch"Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried carries not only the soldiers' intangible burdens-grief, terror, love, longing - but also the weight of memory, the terrible gravity of guilt. It carries them, though, with a lovely, stirring grace, because it is as much about the redemptive power of stories as it is about Vietnam." - Orlando Sentinel"The author of the National Book Award-winning Going After Cacciato offers us fiction in a unique form: a kind of 'faction' presented as a collection of related stories that have the cumulative effect of a unified novel. . . .The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don't appear to be fictional at all. Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there's plenty." - Booklist"Astonishing . . . Richly wrought and filled with war's paradoxes, The Things They Carried will reward a second, or even a third, reading. . . . His ambitious, modernistic fable, Going After Cacciato, raised the American war novel to new artistic realms. The Things They Carried is also astonishing-in a whole new way." - Boston Sunday Herald"Eloquent? In The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien expertly fires off tracer rounds, illuminating the art of war in all its horrible and fascinating complexity, detailing the mad and the mundane. . . . The Things They Carried joins the work of Crane and Hemingway and Mailer as great war literature." - Tampa Tribune & Times"The Things They Carried is distinguished by virtue of the novelty and complexity of its presentation. Mr. O'Brien is a superb prose stylist, perhaps the best among Vietnam War novelists. . . . The imaginative retelling of the war is just as real as the war itself, maybe more so, and experiencing these narratives can be powerfully cathartic for writer and reader alike." - Atlanta Journal & Constitution"The search for the great American novel will never end, but it gets a step closer to realization with The Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien." - Detroit Free Press"His language is simple - no tricks, no phony subtlety, no 'artistic' twists. The writing is as clear as one of his northern Minnesota lakes. . . . The Things They Carried charts out a lot of emotional territory, gripping the reader from beginning to end. This is one of those books you should read. It is also one of those books you'll be glad you did. . . . This book - and these lives - will live for a long time." - Milwaukee Sentinel"There have been movies. And plays. And books. But there has been nothing like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. . . . O'Brien's vision is unique. . . . All of us, by holding O'Brien's stories in our hands, can approach Vietnam and truth." - San Diego Union"His characters and his situations are unique and ring true to the point of tears. His prose is simply magnificent. . . . Unforgettable ." - Minneapolis Star Tribune"A powerful yet lyrical work of fiction." - The Associated Press"O'Brien's new master work. .. . Go out and get this book and read it. Read it slowly, and let O'Brien's masterful storytelling and his eloquent philosophizing about the nature of war wash over you. . . . The Things They Carried is a major work of literary imagination." - The Veteran"In The Things They Carried, a matchlessly literary book, O'Brien casts away any least pretense and writes straight from the heart. . . . The Things They Carried is an accomplished, gentle, lovely book." - Kansas City Star"O'Brien's meditations - on war and memory, on darkness and light - suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel. . . . Beautifully honest . . . The book is persuasive in its desperate hope that stories can save us." - Publishers Weekly"The best of these stories - and none is written with less than the sharp edge of honed vision - are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be. . . . It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come" - Los Angeles Times"The Things They Carriedis as good as any piece of literature can get . . . It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd." - Chicago Sun Times"In prose that combines the sharp, unsentimental rhythms of Hemingway with gentler, more lyrical descriptions, Mr. O'Brien gives the reader a shockingly visceral sense of what it felt like to tramp through a booby-trapped jungle, carrying 20 pounds of supplies, 14 pounds of ammunition, along with radios, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. . . . With 'The Things They Carried, Mr. O'Brien has written a vital, important book - a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well." - Michiko Kakutani,New York Times"[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war? .crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories." - New York Times,"Books of the Century""WithThe Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien adds his second title to the short list of essential fiction about Vietnam. . . . [H]e captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers. But he goes much further. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he placesThe Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war." - New York Times Book Review"WhenGoing After Cacciatoappeared out of nowhere to win the 1979 National Book Award, it seemed to many, myself included, that no finer fiction had, as of then, been written in the closing half of the 20th century - or was likely to be in the remaining years to come.The Things They Carried disposes of that prediction. . . . Tim O'Brien is the best American writer of his generation." - San Francisco Examiner'The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography . . . O'Brien's absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.' - The New Yorker"Rendered with an evocative, quiet precision, not equaled in the imaginitive literature of the American war in Vietnam. It is as though a Thucydides had descended from grandpolitique and strategy to calm dissection of the quotidian efforts of war. . . . O'Brien has it just right." - Washington Post"Powerful . . . Composed in the same lean, vigorous style as his earlier books,The Things They Carriedadds up to a captivating account of the experiences of an infantry company in Vietnam. . . . Evocative and haunting, the raw force of confession." - Wall Street Journal"O'Brien has written a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background. Drenched in irony and purple-haze napalm, the Vietnam narrative has almost been forced to produce a new kind of war literature.The Things They Carriedis an extraordinary contribution to that class of fiction. . . . O'Brien's passion and memory may have been his torment all these years, but they have also been his gift. . . .The Things They Carriedleaves third-degree burns. Between its rhythmic brilliance and its exquisite rendering of memory - the slant of sunlight in the midst of war, the look on a man's face as he steps on a mine - this is prose headed for the nerve center of what was Vietnam." - The Boston Globe"Simply marvelous ? A striking sequence of stories that twist and turn and bounce off each other . . . O'Brien has invented a tone of voice precisely suited to this war: it conveys a risky load of sentiment kept in check by both a chaste prose and a fair amount of comedy. . . . Wars seldom produce good short stories, but two or three of these seem as good as any short stories written about any war. . . . Immensely affecting." - Newsweek"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get. . . . The line between fiction and fact is beautifully, permanently blurred. It is the perfect approach to this sort of material, and O'Brien does it with vast skill and grace. ? It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd. I salute the man who wrote it." - Chicago Sun-Times"Consummate artistry ? A strongly unified book, a series of glimpses, through different facets, of a single, mysterious, deadly stone . . . O'Brien blends diverse incidents, voices, and genres, indelibly rendering the nightmarish impact of the Vietnam experience." - Andy Solomon,Philadelphia Inquirer"O'Brien has brought us another remarkable piece of work . . . The stories have a specificity of observed physical detail that makes them seem a model of the realist's art. . . . What finally distinguishesThe Things They Carried is O'Brien's understanding of the nature of memory." - Miami Herald"This is writing so powerful that it steals your breath. ? It perfectly captures the moral confusion that is the legacy of the Vietnam War. . . .The Things They Carried is about more than war, of course. It is about the human heart and emotional baggage and loyalty and love. It is about the difference between 'truth' and 'reality.' It is about death - and life. It is successful on every level." - Milwaukee Journal"O'Brien's stunning new book of linked stories,The Things They Carried, is about the power of the imagination. . . . I've read all five of O'Brien's books with admiration that sometimes verges on awe. Nobody else can make me feel, as his three Vietnam books have, what I imagine to have been the reality of that war." - USA Today"I've got to make you read this book. ? A certain panic arises in me. In trying to review a book as precious asThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, there is the nightmare fear of saying the wrong thing - of not getting the book's wonder across to you fairly-and of sounding merely zealous, fanatical, and hence to be dismissed. If I can't get you to go out and buy this book, then I've failed you. ? In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder, life's tenuousness, life's importance." - Rick Bass,Dallas Morning News"O'Brien has unmistakably forged one of the most persuasive works of any kind to arise out of any war." - Hartford Courant"O'Brien succeeds as well as any writer in conveying the free-fall sensation of fear and the surrealism of combat." - Time"It's a marvelous and chilling book, and something totally new in fiction. A dramatic redefinition of fiction itself, maybe. It will probably be a bestseller and a movie, and deserves to be. It will be nominated for prizes, but I wonder if any prize will do it justice. Maybe a silver star for telling the truth that never happened, passionately, gracefully." - Charlotte Observer"The Things They Carried is more than 'another' book about Vietnam. ? It is a master stroke of form and imagery. . . .The Things They Carried is about life, about men who fought and die, about buddies, and about a lost innocence that might be recaptured through the memory of stories. O'Brien tells us these stories because he must. He tells them as they have never been told before. ? IfCacciato was the book about Vietnam, then this is the book about surviving it." - Richmond Times-Dispatch"Throughout, it is incredibly ordinary, human stuff-that's why this book is extra-ordinary. . . . Each story resonates with its predecessors, yet stands alone. The soft blurs with the hard. The gore and terror of Vietnam jungle warfare accumulate into an enormous mass." - Houston Chronicle"Even more thanCacciato,The Things They Carried is virtually impossible to summarize in conventional terms. If anything, it is a better book. . . . The novel is held together by two things: the haunting clarity of O'Brien's prose and the intensity of his focus. . . . O'Brien's stories are like nobody else's. His blend of poetic realism and comic fantasy remains unique. ? In short, critics really can't account for O'Brien at all. At least in part that's because his Vietnam stories are really about the yearning for peace - aimed at humanunderstanding rather than some 'definitive' understanding of the war. . . . Just by imagining stories that never happened, and embroidering upon some that did, O'Brien can bring it all back. He can feel the terror and the sorrow and the crazy, jagged laughter. He can bring the dead back to life. And bring back the dreaming, too." - Entertainment Weekly"Brilliant. . . O'Brien again shows his literary stuff. . . . An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere collection of stories. Not since Kurt Vonnegut'sSlaughterhouse Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity." - Library Journal"One hell of a book . . . You'll rarely read anything as real as this." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch"Tim O'Brien'sThe Things They Carried carries not only the soldiers' intangible burdens-grief, terror, love, longing - but also the weight of memory, the terrible gravity of guilt. It carries them, though, with a lovely, stirring grace, because it is as much about the redemptive power of stories as it is about Vietnam." - Orlando Sentinel"The author of the National Book Award-winningGoing After Cacciato offers us fiction in a unique form: a kind of 'faction' presented as a collection of related stories that have the cumulative effect of a unified novel. . . .The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don't appear to be fictional at all. Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there's plenty." - Booklist"Astonishing . . . Richly wrought and filled with war's paradoxes,The Things They Carried will reward a second, or even a third, reading. . . . His ambitious, modernistic fable,Going After Cacciato, raised the American war novel to new artistic realms. The Things They Carried is also astonishing-in a whole new way." - Boston Sunday Herald"Eloquent? InThe Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien expertly fires off tracer rounds, illuminating the art of war in all its horrible and fascinating complexity, detailing the mad and the mundane. . . .The Things They Carried joins the work of Crane and Hemingway and Mailer as great war literature." - Tampa Tribune & Times"The Things They Carried is distinguished by virtue of the novelty and complexity of its presentation. Mr. O'Brien is a superb prose stylist, perhaps the best among Vietnam War novelists. . . . The imaginative retelling of the war is just as real as the war itself, maybe more so, and experiencing these narratives can be powerfully cathartic for writer and reader alike." - Atlanta Journal & Constitution"The search for the great American novel will never end, but it gets a step closer to realization withThe Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien." - Detroit Free Press"His language is simple - no tricks, no phony subtlety, no 'artistic' twists. The writing is as clear as one of his northern Minnesota lakes. . . . The Things They Carried charts out a lot of emotional territory, gripping the reader from beginning to end. This is one of those books you should read. It is also one of those books you'll be glad you did. . . . This book - and these lives - will live for a long time." - Milwaukee Sentinel"There have been movies. And plays. And books. But there has been nothing like Tim O'Brien'sThe Things They Carried. . . . O'Brien's vision is unique. . . . All of us, by holding O'Brien's stories in our hands, can approach Vietnam and truth." - San Diego Union"His characters and his situations are unique and ring true to the point of tears. His prose is simply magnificent. . . . Unforgettable ." - Minneapolis Star Tribune"A powerful yet lyrical work of fiction." - The Associated Press"O'Brien's new master work. .. . Go out and get this book and read it. Read it slowly, and let O'Brien's masterful storytelling and his eloquent philosophizing about the nature of war wash over you. . . .The Things They Carried is a major work of literary imagination." - The Veteran"InThe Things They Carried, a matchlessly literary book, O'Brien casts away any least pretense and writes straight from the heart. . . .The Things They Carried is an accomplished, gentle, lovely book." - Kansas City Star"O'Brien's meditations - on war and memory, on darkness and light - suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel. . . . Beautifully honest . . . The book is persuasive in its desperate hope that stories can save us." - Publishers Weekly"