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I have waited two decades for this book. I studied Tim O’Brien while attending Bowling Green State University. Eventually, I read every word of fiction he had ever published. He dazzled me with his brilliant writing. After I had read it all, I waited. I checked in often to see if he had released another novel. Then, twenty-one years after July, July, he was slated to release America Fantastica. I couldn’t get in line fast enough. On Christmas Eve, I peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal the hardcover I had longed for.

Two evenings ago, I read the first chapter of the novel. It was like seeing an old friend. A firm handshake and a pat on the shoulder. The smell of leather and cologne. I had not forgotten his brilliance. I missed it, but I hadn’t forgotten it.

Another crappy weekend of Ohio weather equals ample reading time. I feel like I am doing a cannonball into a pool of wonder. I know I won’t want the book to end, and I will ponder if this is it. Does he have another one in him?

O’Brien is one of the best. We studied Baldwin, Morrison, Carver, O’Conner… The list goes on. Tim O’Brien stuck with me the most. I would sit speechless for hours and hours with a book of his in my hands that I had just finished. He made me want to write more than ever. Had I never read The Things They Carried, I may have never written a novel.

I hope all of you have the same inspiration somehow, somewhere. Happy reading, my friends!!!

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