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Going after Cacciato, by Tim O'Brien

We will be leading another exciting discussion of the second 2016 Book Club selection, Going after Cacciato, on Saturday, July 23rd at 11am.

Can't make this book club discussion? There is also a weekday discussion on Wednesday, July 20th at 12pm. 

"To call Going After Cacciato a novel about war is like calling Moby Dick a novel about whales." So wrote The New York Times of Tim O'Brein's now classic novel of Vietnam. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award, Going After Cacciato captures the peculiar blend of horror and hallucinatory comedy that marked this the strangest of wars. Reality and fantasy merge in this fictional account of one private's sudden discussion to lay down his rifle and begin a quixotic journey from the of Indochina to the streets of Paris. Will Cacciato make it all the way? Or will he be yet another casualty of a conflict that seems to have no end? In its memorable evocation of men both fleeing and meeting the demands of the battle, Going After Cacciato stands as much more than just a great war novel. Ultimately, it's about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all." -Publisher

Discussion Questions  

- In your opinion, did the non-linear chronology help or hinder the story?

-How did you feel about the elements of surrealism, like Cacciato flying off the side of the mountain?

-There is much discussion on AWOL ("absent without official leave" ) and desertion amongst the men.  Cacciato is only AWOL, if they can catch him and bring him back.  Did you agree with the men in their distinctions between these two concepts?

-The story gives lots of distinctive details about the many individuals Paul Berlin meets during his military service and those who accompany him on his quest to bring back Cacciato.  Which of these characters did you find the most interesting and why?

-Early in the novel, Stink shoots a buffalo pulling a wagon cart.  Paul Berlin then deals with the women refugees to whom the buffalo belonged.  They join him and his men on the shared journey to the “far west.”  How do Berlin’s interactions with these civilians contrast to his interactions with his comrades?

-The constant walking is a large part of the story.  The distance from Vietnam to Paris is roughly 9,952 km.  Do you think you could walk to Paris?  What does the idea of walking there mean to Berlin and his companions?

-Did you like the ending of the novel?

-Have you read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried?  Which novel did you prefer and why?