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A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED Originally published in 1975, Tim O'Brien's debut novel demonstrates the emotional complexity and enthralling narrative tension that later earned him the National Book Award. At its core is the relationship between two brothers: one who went to Vietnam and one who stayed at home. As the two brot A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED Originally published in 1975, Tim O'Brien's debut novel demonstrates the emotional complexity and enthralling narrative tension that later earned him the National Book Award. At its core is the relationship between two brothers: one who went to Vietnam and one who stayed at home. As the two brothers struggle against an unexpected blizzard in Minnesota's remote north woods, what they discover about themselves and each other will change both of them for ever.


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A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED Originally published in 1975, Tim O'Brien's debut novel demonstrates the emotional complexity and enthralling narrative tension that later earned him the National Book Award. At its core is the relationship between two brothers: one who went to Vietnam and one who stayed at home. As the two brot A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED Originally published in 1975, Tim O'Brien's debut novel demonstrates the emotional complexity and enthralling narrative tension that later earned him the National Book Award. At its core is the relationship between two brothers: one who went to Vietnam and one who stayed at home. As the two brothers struggle against an unexpected blizzard in Minnesota's remote north woods, what they discover about themselves and each other will change both of them for ever.

30 review for Northern Lights

  1. 4 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    Tim O'Brien is a brilliant writer, but NORTHERN LIGHTS is his debut novel, and it shows. While not a bad read, the story and pacing are just not up to the quality of O'Brien's later work. Tim O'Brien is a brilliant writer, but NORTHERN LIGHTS is his debut novel, and it shows. While not a bad read, the story and pacing are just not up to the quality of O'Brien's later work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Do people talk like that? Do they restate and re-phrase and repeat with that consistency? Do they communicate the same basic ideas over and over? Do people duplicate their prose the way almost every character in Northern Lights does? What I'm asking is, do people repeat themselves the way these characters do, in their speech, their writing, even their internal monologues? Maybe. Maybe we repeat ourselves all the time and don't realize. And maybe we hide our most important thoughts to the point t Do people talk like that? Do they restate and re-phrase and repeat with that consistency? Do they communicate the same basic ideas over and over? Do people duplicate their prose the way almost every character in Northern Lights does? What I'm asking is, do people repeat themselves the way these characters do, in their speech, their writing, even their internal monologues? Maybe. Maybe we repeat ourselves all the time and don't realize. And maybe we hide our most important thoughts to the point that even an omniscient, third-person narration of our lives would omit seemingly critical details. Northern Lights isn't awful, but it is annoying in an interesting way. It's the sort of story that tries to show us something about ourselves that might not appeal. So what can we learn from a boring husband who routinely dismisses his boring wife and the boring wife who just keeps coming back earnest as ever? What can we learn from a clever-but-tedious veteran who chases after a clever-but-tedious girl? What can we learn from the mysterious war-wound that is never explained or the climactic ski-trip disaster that ultimately changes nothing? Do we learn that we are too quick to dismiss mundane people and mundane events? Or maybe that we aren't as clever as we think we are? Or that real life defies climax and resolution? Maybe. But maybe it's enough to think about the sentence you just spoke (or wrote, or thought) and wonder 'am I repeating myself?' Am I repeating myself? Edited 3/2/2019

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book can pretty much be summed up in one word - anticlimatic. I spent the entire time I was reading Northern Lights wondering when the "spellbinding suspense" the Chicago Times Review on the front cover raved about would occur and was disheartened when I reached the end of the novel and it never had. I mean, the characters are likeable enough and the plot has potential... it just goes nowhere. The whole story pretty much consists of Perry and Harvey skiing and sleeping and being cold or hot This book can pretty much be summed up in one word - anticlimatic. I spent the entire time I was reading Northern Lights wondering when the "spellbinding suspense" the Chicago Times Review on the front cover raved about would occur and was disheartened when I reached the end of the novel and it never had. I mean, the characters are likeable enough and the plot has potential... it just goes nowhere. The whole story pretty much consists of Perry and Harvey skiing and sleeping and being cold or hot or sick. Nothing happens to make anything exciting or suspenseful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Magness

    Painfully repetitive prose and weird, unlikable characters somehow still succeed in a powerful subversion of wilderness survival tropes. A good exercise for the mind, not so good for the soul.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Rubenstein

    It was as though nothing had changed or ever would change, and partly she was right. In the winter, in the blizzard, there had been no sudden revelation, and things were the same, no epiphany or sudden shining of light to awaken and comfort and make happy, and things were the same, the old man was still down there alive in his grave, frozen and not dead, and in the house the cold was always there, except for patience and Grace and the pond, which were the same, everything the same. Harvey was qu It was as though nothing had changed or ever would change, and partly she was right. In the winter, in the blizzard, there had been no sudden revelation, and things were the same, no epiphany or sudden shining of light to awaken and comfort and make happy, and things were the same, the old man was still down there alive in his grave, frozen and not dead, and in the house the cold was always there, except for patience and Grace and the pond, which were the same, everything the same. Harvey was quiet. Like twin oxen struggling in different directions against the same old yoke, they could not talk, for there was only the long history: the town, the place, the forest and religion, partly a combination of human beings and events, partly a genetic fix, an alchemy of circumstance. That's how I felt once I finished reading this debut novel by Tim O'Brien: like the characters didn't--and couldn't--change, like the war one fought in and the same war the other didn't fight in stymied their ability to experience happiness and growth. Or maybe they could feel happy and grow if they were to share their thoughts and feelings, as if just releasing the words into the universe would free them. But alas, they couldn't, they would rather die than say such things aloud. One way this book impressed me was how quickly it could shift the mood, because just three pages earlier I lost a tear after reading this: He did not talk about the long days of being lost. The same way he never talked about the war, or how he lost his eye, or other bad things. He would not talk about it. “Yes, we’ll go to Nassau,” he would say instead. “Where it’s warm. By God, we’ll have us a lovely time, won’t we? Buy a sailboat and sail the islands, see the sights, sleep at night on the beaches. Doesn’t it sound great?” That passage led me to consider that I'd allowed myself to forget that many years ago I endured near-death treatment in order to prevent certain death from illness. And if I did allow myself to forget that, then I thus deprived myself of fully being alive. And if I deprived myself of fully being alive, then I must now fully awaken--at least, this is what I thought immediately after tearing--I must put the book down and drive to go hang with my girlfriend, because that would be the most lively thing I could do. ...But then just three pages later, I read the first passage above, and realized that just living for the rush of liveliness the way Harvey was living during the time of that second passage was really just a way to stay stuck, to not grow, to not seek real happiness. And then I continued reading to the end, and now I feel entirely content writing this review on a Friday night. My, how fleeting thoughts and feelings can be; my, the power of stories.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sean Owen

    I'm a Tim O'Brien fan and this is the first book of his that I didn't like. It's also an early book and clearly, he improved. Not a lot happens and even what does actually happen sort of just occurs and doesn't really change anything. There are a handful of main characters and we only really ever get to know one of them and he's so internally confused that we don't really know much about him. There are some great scenes of the north woods of Minnesota, but Northern Lights feels like a rough sket I'm a Tim O'Brien fan and this is the first book of his that I didn't like. It's also an early book and clearly, he improved. Not a lot happens and even what does actually happen sort of just occurs and doesn't really change anything. There are a handful of main characters and we only really ever get to know one of them and he's so internally confused that we don't really know much about him. There are some great scenes of the north woods of Minnesota, but Northern Lights feels like a rough sketch of an actual book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is O'Brien's first novel, written in 1975. A brother to brother drama set in rural Minnesota. Paul's the brother that stayed home and Harvey is the one that went to war. He comes back injured. The story is how the two brothers and come back together. To bond, they go off on a cross-country skiing adventure that turns dangerous. I can see a great writer learning his craft. And although, I didn't really like the way he developed some of his characters (especially the women), its ultimately a This is O'Brien's first novel, written in 1975. A brother to brother drama set in rural Minnesota. Paul's the brother that stayed home and Harvey is the one that went to war. He comes back injured. The story is how the two brothers and come back together. To bond, they go off on a cross-country skiing adventure that turns dangerous. I can see a great writer learning his craft. And although, I didn't really like the way he developed some of his characters (especially the women), its ultimately a really good read. 8/10

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Holy God was this terrible. I’m shocked that this was written by the same guy who did Cacciato and Lake in the Woods and The Things They Carried. I loved those works so much that I decided I would read everything by him and jumped at this book when I saw it at a used book shop, knowing nothing about it. Granted, it was his first work and he probably had to hone his voice/skills. But my goodness is this bad. Pat myself on the back for finishing it. I completely understand all these reviews on her Holy God was this terrible. I’m shocked that this was written by the same guy who did Cacciato and Lake in the Woods and The Things They Carried. I loved those works so much that I decided I would read everything by him and jumped at this book when I saw it at a used book shop, knowing nothing about it. Granted, it was his first work and he probably had to hone his voice/skills. But my goodness is this bad. Pat myself on the back for finishing it. I completely understand all these reviews on here where people say they cast it aside after 50 or 100 pages. I just thought it had to get better, had to go somewhere, that Tim O’Brien couldn’t possibly write a book that didn’t develop and evolve as the pages unfolded. It got to the point where I was speed-reading, just letting my eyes scan over the sentences, skimming the dialogue, skipping the second half of paragraphs that started with nothing and weren’t moving on. Everything was so repetitive! I could skim and fly through and not worry about missing anything because everything was repeated 20 times! The dialogue was terrible, characters repeating things over and over within a page, within a single speech! The narration was repetitive… The writing was boring, slow, devoid of any action, suspense or plot. It’s like O’Brien was attempting for Hemingway-style understatement – “Harvey stared resolutely at the snowed-in football field. They were jumping and exercising and the loudspeakers called out the starting lineups. Grace unfolded a blanked and draped it across everyone’s knees. The bleachers were full of people. The whole town was there. The band played the Sawmill Landing fight song and everyone stood. Perry’s glasses steamed over.” – I mean WTF? Short, choppy sentences, but with no gravitas, no huge meaning underneath the understatement, just bland, declarative crap. Or the dialogue – “You don’t remember me getting that rifle? I can’t… That, I can’t understand. Thought sure you remembered it. You were laughing at me. You saw how scared I was. The old man… he never saw it. You saw it. You remember? And I… don’t you remember? Don’t know why. You remember now? That damn rifle. You started laughing. You asked to see my new rifle. You don’t remember?” This is a tiny quote from a speech that went on for three whole pages. Harvey asks about the stupid rifle for multiple pages, repeating almost verbatim… And for what? Is this a huge point of emphasis? Symbolism? Not that I can tell. And this type of repetition happens with all characters, throughout the whole book, not just this one scene for emphasis. The characters were bland and not at all realistic. Why not do more with the returning war vet and his demons? His drinking his mentioned but nothing ever comes of it. He never grows or changes, none of the other characters ever really make an impact with him/it. The two female characters are about as flat as they come. I don’t buy Grace for a second. She’s treated like shit but acts like the perfect little “What can I do for you” housewife… but yet she’s not some Mad Men era mother, she’s a professional, a teacher… and Addie makes no sense whatsoever. What’s her role? She’s just there, flirting with Harvey when he’s being stupid and running away when he’s being serious. And the plot!?!?!? There is none! The first 100 pages are so boring. Nothing happens. At least there’s the hint of something with Harvey returning from war and re-embedding himself in society… but that never develops into the main focus. Instead, the two brothers go up to a ski competition and decide to si home. That’s the next 200 pages. So slow, long, boring… and after that whole thing when they get back, the story moves on like nothing. Any excitement from Grace when they return? Addie? A bigger scene after all that? The two brothers do or say or learn anything? No. The end. The cover of my version has a blurb that says “The suspense is spellbinding.” Sorry, Chicago Sun-Times, but your writer needs a punch in the face, because this book does not contain one iota of suspense. I’m all about character-driven dramas; I don’t need to have crazy-action plot and twists and all. I actually prefer my stories character-driven, life-examining, the psychological analysis of individuals and relationships and why people do what they do. I’d take a Richard Russo over a James Patterson or Brad Meltzer any day. But this has none of that. I was planning on reading all of O’Brien’s works. Now I’m wondering if I should continue on. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, knowing this was his first work and seeing how he went on to win the National Book Award and a shot at a Pulitzer. But I can’t believe this book was published.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    I appreciate the complexities between the characters and the accuracy that is revealed in a character book (no real plot suspension) in which the characters do not much change or grow. I did not like Grace. I found her too "mother-y" (yeah, yeah the missing father called her "someone's mother" when she was just a college girl and she is an elementary school teacher and we are constantly reminded that she wants a baby), even though that is her central core. In the opening scene I thought she treat I appreciate the complexities between the characters and the accuracy that is revealed in a character book (no real plot suspension) in which the characters do not much change or grow. I did not like Grace. I found her too "mother-y" (yeah, yeah the missing father called her "someone's mother" when she was just a college girl and she is an elementary school teacher and we are constantly reminded that she wants a baby), even though that is her central core. In the opening scene I thought she treated Perry almost as if he was mentally handicapped and her repeated "now, let me rub you," and "poor baby" selfless maternal babblings were just nauseating. I was also frequently bothered by the repetitions in the text. There were multiple times in the novel in which Perry's thoughts just circled. I found myself reading several paragraphs (several times throughout) which were essentially the same two sentences repeated ad nauseum. The beauty in the novel came in the perfect representation of calm and repetition in nature: "He could close his eyes and ski and imagine himself finally stopping and freezing and fossilizing and sprouting needled branches and joining the pines in a perfect communion. One of millions. Each the same. No cold, no hunger, no memories and no fear. An element among elements in the elements." Perry really loses himself (and essentially finds his backbone) during the cross-country ski trip. While there is no real change, there is development; as he takes charge (really for the first time in his life) after Harvey gets them lost and then becomes sick, Perry begins to recognize his own value and ability to make decisions. As Perry drags near-death Harvey through the woods, I was reminded of Millet's How the Dead Dream (which was not a good book). In turn, that has elements of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Ultimately, we have the same travel through nature in which the main character makes it back to civilization only to realize that real change can only come through oneself. Unlike How the Dead Dream, Harvey comes out alive (the poor guide is not only dead but is left to the river) and unscathed from the experience. It is only Perry who sees the necessity of self-reliance and recognizes that change is not all bad. When Perry finally emerges, he cannot reach Grace by phone and realizes (much in parallel to Harvey's homecoming on the bus months prior): "There was no answer. Outside, he retrieved his skis and wiped them off and stacked them in a dry spot by the garage. He was depressed. There ought to have been crowds. The high way should have been jammed with well-wishers. He took up the branch that he had used as a pole, gripped it hard and flung it across the highway and into the woods. A clod of wet snow slid off the roof . Inside again, he had another beer." Perry turns to alcohol the same way that the vets do; when reality does not meet expectations after a traumatizing experience it is rather trite to assume a fantastical impression fueled by drink. Overall, it was not appealing to me. Despite reading Leopold simultaneously, I am not really a "nature" book kind of gal. I think the best parts of this novel are in the natural description and that was mostly lost on me. I can understand why this is a very appealing book to some (in the vein of Heller's The Dog Stars), but personally I was not engaged.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I was kind of disappointed in this. It didn't really affect me as much as Tim O'Brien's other novels. I mean, the writing style was just as beautiful, I'll always love his writing style. But I just didn't really care all that much about the story. I didn't like many of the side characters. They kind of gave me an unsettling feeling, which may have been intended, but even so, I didn't enjoy reading about them. The only character I actually liked was Grace, and I was interested in the relationship I was kind of disappointed in this. It didn't really affect me as much as Tim O'Brien's other novels. I mean, the writing style was just as beautiful, I'll always love his writing style. But I just didn't really care all that much about the story. I didn't like many of the side characters. They kind of gave me an unsettling feeling, which may have been intended, but even so, I didn't enjoy reading about them. The only character I actually liked was Grace, and I was interested in the relationship between Perry and Harvey. The story tended to drag at times because it was often very repetitive - they're skiing through the woods, it's cold, they're hungry and sick - and I couldn't tell one section from another. I took a break from reading it for a few days and it took me a while to figure out where I had left off, which usually isn't a problem. It's not a bad book at all, though. I think, for me, the story just didn't really appeal, and it didn't compare to The Things They Carried or Going After Cacciato, which are both wonderful books. I'm fairly certain that this was O'Brien's first novel, so I'm not going to hold it against him, and I'm going to read his other books, because he's a damn good writer.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Malibu Langley

    Oh god this was boring! Has Tim ever even met a woman before? I was entirely disappointed by the two stereotypes of women that appeared in this book. One was a blue stocking-ed lady who aspired to have a family and worked as a teacher and the other was so free that she never wore shoes... gross... The pacing of this novel is awful and if I was a lesser person I would have given up reading this after the very first chapter but I have never given up on a book and did not intend to give that up to Oh god this was boring! Has Tim ever even met a woman before? I was entirely disappointed by the two stereotypes of women that appeared in this book. One was a blue stocking-ed lady who aspired to have a family and worked as a teacher and the other was so free that she never wore shoes... gross... The pacing of this novel is awful and if I was a lesser person I would have given up reading this after the very first chapter but I have never given up on a book and did not intend to give that up to Mr O’Brian. I absolutely hated the repetitive writing style and I am struggling to fathom if this is (a) how all men think (in which case I refuse to marry one) (b) just how to Tim thinks (in which case I pity him) or (c) that he has created a character so unbelievably dumb and male that again I pity him. Sorry but really don’t waste your time on this one. From the other reviews of this book I have gathered that his later work is better! Also feel like it’s worth mentioning that I felt entirely obliged to read this book as it was bought for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Pacing is a real problem here, as the story doesn't really start until almost 200 pages in. Up to that point there's a lot of character development. Except that's not quite right. There's a lot of dialogue from the characters, but it doesn't reveal much because it's so repetitive. Later in the book, I started to appreciate what O'Brien was doing with this dialogue a little more. The two main characters have never learned how to express themselves emotionally and they talk in repeating circles, t Pacing is a real problem here, as the story doesn't really start until almost 200 pages in. Up to that point there's a lot of character development. Except that's not quite right. There's a lot of dialogue from the characters, but it doesn't reveal much because it's so repetitive. Later in the book, I started to appreciate what O'Brien was doing with this dialogue a little more. The two main characters have never learned how to express themselves emotionally and they talk in repeating circles, talking around and around what they want to say without ever saying it. It works to an extent, but becomes tiresome and I often got the feeling that it was O'Brien holding back information and not the characters. Definitely the worst of O'Brien's work that I've read. Not terrible by any means, but I don't see myself ever revisiting this like I do The Things They Carried or In the Lake of the Woods.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric Susak

    While Northern Lights doesn't hold up to the standard that I've become accustomed to with Tim O'Brien novels, it still draws me, like an amorphous, slight sadness dimming everything around it. He does this so well by the cadence of the character's thoughts and words. They skirt around issues, avoiding pinpointing the center for fear of what they might find in that dark place. As Perry and Harvey roam the woods on skis, leaving tracks to no certain end, so does the reader follow O'Brien's acute o While Northern Lights doesn't hold up to the standard that I've become accustomed to with Tim O'Brien novels, it still draws me, like an amorphous, slight sadness dimming everything around it. He does this so well by the cadence of the character's thoughts and words. They skirt around issues, avoiding pinpointing the center for fear of what they might find in that dark place. As Perry and Harvey roam the woods on skis, leaving tracks to no certain end, so does the reader follow O'Brien's acute observation of pain and recovery and coping. There were moments when I felt the deliberate orchestration behind the scenes, that O'Brien was there contriving a point he wanted to make. This is the only failure of this book, I think. But, being as how it's one of his first, we can instead marvel at far he has come between this and The Things They Carried.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karin Mika

    I've used some of Tim O'Brien's writing to teach descriptive writing in my classes and was intrigued by the description of the book. I like outdoor adventures. I like books where people learn about themselves and others as they re-examine their pasts. However, there was little I liked about the book. I did not care for either of the main characters, and I'm not sure what they learned about themselves or anyone else. I was waiting for something to happen, and I'm not sure it really ever did. I wa I've used some of Tim O'Brien's writing to teach descriptive writing in my classes and was intrigued by the description of the book. I like outdoor adventures. I like books where people learn about themselves and others as they re-examine their pasts. However, there was little I liked about the book. I did not care for either of the main characters, and I'm not sure what they learned about themselves or anyone else. I was waiting for something to happen, and I'm not sure it really ever did. I was about half way through the book with an intent to stop reading, but I read some reviews saying that the main event (getting caught in a blizzard) doesn't happen until halfway through the book and then the story gets really good. It didn't, at least not for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Trim out the redundancies and replace it with something of substance. There needs to be more refinement, more meaningful material. The author can create dialogue that flows and breathes, but the narrative can sometimes be choppy and unappealing. Many talented writers can turn even the most boring stories into vivid, engaging material; however, this story tends to drag on despite its potential and opportunities for growth. I wanted something engaging and meaningful, not uncouth and dry. Again, wi Trim out the redundancies and replace it with something of substance. There needs to be more refinement, more meaningful material. The author can create dialogue that flows and breathes, but the narrative can sometimes be choppy and unappealing. Many talented writers can turn even the most boring stories into vivid, engaging material; however, this story tends to drag on despite its potential and opportunities for growth. I wanted something engaging and meaningful, not uncouth and dry. Again, with a little more thought and refinement, this story could have gone to new heights. This is not what I would attribute to be one of Tim O'Brien's best works, though I still hold him in high regards as an author.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I’ve not read anything else by Tim O’Brien, and though I still hope to get to The Things They Carried, I’ll pick it up with some trepidation after reading Northern Lights - a book populated by characters about whom I couldn’t care less, who communicate in a language unfamiliar to the English-speaking world. There are moments of solid writing, and the story was compelling enough to overcome my instinct to simply put the book back on the shelf, but it’s not a book I would ever recommend. In many w I’ve not read anything else by Tim O’Brien, and though I still hope to get to The Things They Carried, I’ll pick it up with some trepidation after reading Northern Lights - a book populated by characters about whom I couldn’t care less, who communicate in a language unfamiliar to the English-speaking world. There are moments of solid writing, and the story was compelling enough to overcome my instinct to simply put the book back on the shelf, but it’s not a book I would ever recommend. In many ways, this book is the literary equivalent of the films of Terrence Malick. It’s brooding. It’s self-indulgent. It’s populated by inaccessible characters. But still there are moments of beauty. With all of the great books in the world, don’t waste precious reading time on this dud.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Anderson

    2.5-3 stars. I've read several other novels by O'Brien and this book did not match them. The strongest parts were the descriptive paragraphs, but the dialogue - and there is a lot of it - brings the story down. I am certain it is intended to show the dissatisfaction and ennui of Perry, but it was pushing my own limits. The stream of consciousness is a logical literary trick in many places but the characters are too much. Again, assuming they are created to illustrate Perry's own tolerance of the 2.5-3 stars. I've read several other novels by O'Brien and this book did not match them. The strongest parts were the descriptive paragraphs, but the dialogue - and there is a lot of it - brings the story down. I am certain it is intended to show the dissatisfaction and ennui of Perry, but it was pushing my own limits. The stream of consciousness is a logical literary trick in many places but the characters are too much. Again, assuming they are created to illustrate Perry's own tolerance of them. And given that he can barely tolerate himself made this a book I almost DNF, but forced through. Also, don't go on a multi day cross country ski adventure during January in northern Minnesota. Especially if Harvey is your guide.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read Tim O’Brien’s wonderful “If I Die In A Combat Zone” some years ago - second only to “A Rumor Of War” in books about Vietnam- but this was the first of his novels I have read, now I have a long list to add to my wish list. This is a spellbinding novel of family ties which built up a gradual lay tightening tension leading to a totally unexpected ending. The characters are well drawn, and the small town life in which this is set evocative, but it is the quality of O’Brien’s writing that shin I read Tim O’Brien’s wonderful “If I Die In A Combat Zone” some years ago - second only to “A Rumor Of War” in books about Vietnam- but this was the first of his novels I have read, now I have a long list to add to my wish list. This is a spellbinding novel of family ties which built up a gradual lay tightening tension leading to a totally unexpected ending. The characters are well drawn, and the small town life in which this is set evocative, but it is the quality of O’Brien’s writing that shines out.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I did not enjoy reading this book but persisted because the story line looked promising and I feel the need to complete reading a book once I have started. I struggled with the style and repetitive nature of the sentences and I didn't like any of the characters. I rated the book at 2 stars as I felt compelled to find out what happened at the end .... so I guess that's good. But the book seemed to peter out at the end. I did not enjoy reading this book but persisted because the story line looked promising and I feel the need to complete reading a book once I have started. I struggled with the style and repetitive nature of the sentences and I didn't like any of the characters. I rated the book at 2 stars as I felt compelled to find out what happened at the end .... so I guess that's good. But the book seemed to peter out at the end.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    Not quite sure what to think about this one. I’m a huge fan of Tim O’Brien; In the Lake of the Woods is one of my favorite books. But this was a strange read. It was repetitive (particularly in the dialogue), boring, poorly paced, and the characters were complex but unlikable. There were some moments of beautiful writing and a few thought-provoking ideas, but often their meaning was elusive and obscure to the extreme.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Byshoon

    I've loved the other O'Brien books I've read, but I feel like he was still developing his skills here. There's just a little too much repetition and a feeling of nothing happening. I get that a lot is unsaid in his books, and I usually enjoy it, but not so much here. It is kind of monotonous. I'll still read more of his, since I've enjoyed them before. I've loved the other O'Brien books I've read, but I feel like he was still developing his skills here. There's just a little too much repetition and a feeling of nothing happening. I get that a lot is unsaid in his books, and I usually enjoy it, but not so much here. It is kind of monotonous. I'll still read more of his, since I've enjoyed them before.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cecily Brizz

    This book was precisely what I needed in this odd time. I struggled with coming back to it, but every time I did, I got caught up in it all over again. It was slow progress for me but I think it was meant to be read that way. It felt more like taking my brain on a vacation than trying to keep its attention. Was it the best book I’ve ever read? Nah. But it was a great read for this year.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moirad

    Definitely not as successful as his later books, this is still fairly impressive for a debut. The description of the days long trek through the snow by the two brothers made me shiver, but the rest seemed a bit wooden.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I love Tim O'Brien's writing. This story is of two brothers, one who went to Viet Nam and one who stayed home. They decide to go on a lake trip during the winter in Minnesota's north woods. A book of discovery about each other and themselves. Gripping. I love Tim O'Brien's writing. This story is of two brothers, one who went to Viet Nam and one who stayed home. They decide to go on a lake trip during the winter in Minnesota's north woods. A book of discovery about each other and themselves. Gripping.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Flint

    Six word book review: Entropy briefly interrupts the bucolic forest.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I like Tim O'Brien's books but this one really dragged. Two brothers in the north woods trying to connect and it went on and on and on. I like Tim O'Brien's books but this one really dragged. Two brothers in the north woods trying to connect and it went on and on and on.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

    The writing style of this book was not for me. I didn't finish it. The writing style of this book was not for me. I didn't finish it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alana Voth

    A poignant love story between two brothers. XO

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aveugle Vogel

    "stone cold apse" "stone cold apse"

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kirei

    Utterly tragic.

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