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My Detachment My Detachment
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My Detachment My Detachment

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  478 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
My Detachment is a war story like none you have ever read before, an unromanticized portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation. In an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving account of his tour of duty in Vietnam, master storyteller Tracy Kidder writes for the first time about himself. This extraordinary memoir is destined to b ...more
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Published September 6th 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
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This book was not exactly what I expected it to be. I was looking for a war book to read and I was hoping to get one that had some action in it. This one did not. While it was interesting to read about his experiences in the army, I was waiting for a fighting scene but never got it. Like I said it was an interesting book but if you're looking for a war book with action in it than this is not the one for you.
Jun 14, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: introspective readers
I picked up this title because I deeply enjoy Kidder's writing style. Any budding writers wanting to understand "voice," go read all of Kidder's work. I admit to a certain interest in trying to understand the generation of men who did or did not go to Vietnam and when I came across Kidder's memoir had an "oh good" reaction, ready for TK to set me straight on American life, like he did with Home Town. I am a fast reader, and I consumed My Detachment in an evening, though I knew I should have read ...more
Carl R.
My previous experience with Tracy Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains) was all about someone else. This one is all about him. Or a version of him. My Detachment was published in 2005, thirty-five years after he finished his two-year army enlistment, so this is a man in his mid-fifties looking back at his twenty-four year old persona. Not always pleasant, but I must say he’s pretty merciless about his examination of the young man who joined the military and went to war.
Kidder joined the army ou
David Sullivan
I'm a big fan of Tracy Kidder, I believe I have read every book he has written from Soul of a New Machine through House, Schoolchildren and Mountains. He writes like a journalist and injects very little of himself in his novels; he demonstrates great compassion and sensitivity towards his subjects. When turning the mirror onto himself though, he is a very harsh critic and portrays himself, however correctly, as an anti-hero looking for courage and unrequited love. What I liked about his compassi ...more
Sep 16, 2007 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this memoir of Kidder's stint in Vietnam, he pulls no punches, describing the callow youth he was with unrelenting candor. Fine writing and a fascinating tale.
Nov 18, 2016 Molly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Molly by: Shannon - afterthefirecameagentlewhisper.blogspot
Shelves: memoirs
"Maybe if we'd stopped and walked around that campus in our uniforms, we'd have found someone to spit on us. I wonder if I would have preferred that to the scene at the airport. Men and women in suits, families on vacations. I kept expecting that someone would accost me. I'd heard the stories. In fact, no one seemed to notice me. I wasn't offended, exactly. The camera had started running again. Soldier returns home in anonymity. He's been away a long time. He has changed. At the same time, I did ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
"What are they going to do Lt.? Send you to Vietnam?" This little question defines the relationship among draftees and lifers. Kidder was assigned to an intelligence unit in Vietnam that handled radio traffic. Their job was to monitor and triangulate North Vietnamese radio traffic. The lifers seemed to be interested only in side-burn length (often measured with a ruler) and "hooch" neatness. Kidder's attitude soon became one of just collecting a few chips to cash in later and one of live and let ...more
When I bought this book at a Borders in Sand City, California, in September 2005 I had figured its title referred to the unit the author led in Viet Nam. I recently pulled it from the "unread" pile and dived in to find that while it IS about a Signals Intelligence Detachment in the Americal Division, the word "Detachment" has other meanings. Mr. Kidder, as a young Lieutenant fresh out of Harvard, finds that he is detached from his men, his leadership, and the war in general, but finishes his tou ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As a Vietnam memoir, Kidder has waited a long time to tell his story. And while it is well written, there is something of a confession in it that may account for the delay. His was not a high-risk tour of duty. As a Harvard graduate and a reserve officer, he escaped the infantry, assigned instead to intelligence, where he served as lieutenant to a detachment of men following the movements of enemy radio operators. His concern was chiefly in maintaining the good will of the men under his command ...more
The best part of this book is Mr. Kidder's writing skills. Part of the story he tells here includes relaying some of his "becoming a writer" history, and I'm glad he stuck with it (plus am glad he gave up fiction writing to focus on non-fiction "reportial" writing, based on some of his unpublished fiction that he quotes...). The "detachment" of the title is his detachment of soldiers when he was stationed in Vietnam, having become a First Lieutenant via Harvard ROTC. As expected, he's the young ...more
Mary Lou
Feb 27, 2011 Mary Lou rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
>My Detachmentis Kidder's memoir about his service in Vietnam, and it's a candid and unflattering, albeit realistic, portrait of a young man from an upper class family who enlists to avoid the draft and alternately puts down the war, just tries to get by, and does his best to serve his country with integrity. Kidder is shallow and self-centered, much more concerned with how he appears to others than with who or what he is. His writing is strong enough to make the short book an easy read, and ...more
Oct 05, 2009 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
More than 30 years after the events, Kidder writes a memoir about his youth, his decision to sign up for ROTC at Harvard in order to avoid the draft, and his year in Vietnam as an intelligence officer. He took over the command of a ragtag group of men who reported on enemy radio locations. They had been allowed by their previous officer to ignore Army rules such as appearance of themselves and their living quarters. He felt ill-prepared to lead this group. He kept his sanity by reading and writi ...more
J.v. Petretta
Having also served in a unit much like Tracy Kidder's, I expected to be at one with this story; I wasn't. Then again, I wasn't a Lieutenant. In fact, much of my life differs substantially from this Author. His Harvard education is apparent in his sophisticated writing. The Army for him was a severe step down; for me, it was an opportunity for a better future. My service in Vietnam also earned me an ARCOM, but I revered that accomplishment, rather than mocked it. I had so hoped to favor this book ...more
Jul 09, 2010 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book from Elizabeth.

I like Tracey Kidder and his writing, based only on his book _The Soul of a New machine_, and my intention to read his book about Paul Farmer. This book, a memoir, confirmed my hunch that he is an excellent researcher and writer as well as an honest self-reflective person.

While I wouldn't rave about the book (eg. give it five stars) I thought it an important memoir to read, especially due to interests in writing, literature, and issues of integrity and duty. I am guessing he
Pulitzer prize winning writer Tracey Kidder impresses with non flattering honesty in this memoir surrounding his days in Vietnam. From a rather lost, but generally accepted young man in prep school to a rather lost and somewhat accepted college student and army lieutenant, Kidder's journey wraps around a search for identity, purpose and respect. The wry humor of the work suffers in the audio version. Kidder reads the work in a monotonous, apathetic cadence that while fitting the work, does littl ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

At its best, My Detachment resembles classic wartime satires like Catch-22 and M*A*S*H in its demonstration that the worst battles many soldiers face are against boredom and mindless military bureaucracy. Critics appreciated Kidder's eagerness to probe his lack of valor and his candor in disclosing his habit of inventing combat experiences to compensate for his unglamorous army career. It's an honest account of his military life. Yet it's also one that some critics considered pointless, as thoug

Dec 30, 2010 Bobbe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My rating is for Kidder's amazing honesty about himself as a young lieutenant REMF in Vietnam (he's always an excellent writer/story teller, in my view). I think it took courage to write this memoir, and I'd like to know why he did. He portrays his young self, a recent Harvard grad, as essentially clueless regarding social issues, the war, the army, people in general, romance... you name it, he couldn't figure it out. Not an attractive protagonist, not charming, and not smart. Maybe he wrote it ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kidder hooked me, as he has many, with Mountains Beyond Mountains. His readable, somewhat gritty but well-read style is similar here. The subject matter is obviously very different, and in being so personal clearly caused him some struggles in how to represent events - in an effort to not make himself look better through editing the narration is almost painfully self-flagellatory at times. Anyone who has served in the military, though, will find that this really rings a bell with them. There are ...more
Aug 05, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read for me. I have loved every book I have read by Tracy Kidder. He has a novel approach to writing that I enjoy immensely. His writing is described as "Nonfiction narrative". "My Detachment" is an actual memoir of his time just before and during his time in the military. It is a very honest account of his feelings at the time and he isn't very likable. He is immature and self-centered. I had a hard time with the book because of the unflattering portrayal of an author th ...more
Kent Hinckley
Jul 26, 2014 Kent Hinckley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tracy crafts a memoir about his time in Vietnam which corresponds to my year in Nha Trang - near where Tracy was assigned. His writing depicts the gloom, insanity, and bleakness of fighting in Vietnam. The story brought up memories I was trying to suppress even forty years later. Forget the way Hollywood glorifies war, this story gives the reader a true look at the way it was run by our military and government. After reading his descriptions and experiences, no one would want to send their sons ...more
Dave Moore
This was actually a unique take on the war. From the perspective of a privileged, Harvard-enrolled, ROTC, old-boy club joining Intelligence Officer. What could a REMF like this have to say about the reality of the horror that was Vietnam?
Quite a bit in the vein of how it changed him from a naive, idealistic child of privilege into a realist. Into someone who disagreed with a useless war begin with, and grew even more disillusioned at the incompetence of upper echelon and the body bags filled wi
Sep 06, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Like most who went to Vietnam, I was in a non-combat role like Kidder's. This book rings true to me. He catches the nuance that many of us experienced: an evolution from annoyed detachment to an unexpected involvement. But i was an em not an officer, and we had little sympathy for guys in roles like Kidder's. They came across to us as a little too privileged and arrogant. There were a lot of Panchos who enjoyed toying with them. But Kidder gets that too, and I give him credit for that.
Jan 07, 2013 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of Tracy Kidder, so I expect a lot from his books. Maybe i just got lost in the military ranks and relationships, but sometimes I just didn't follow the plot. However, if you're interested in reading a memoir of Vietnam that talks about the support staff outside of combat, this is it. Kidder tells about the guys there to just serve their time and stay alive, the bureaucracy and petty rules that existed and how he reconciled his sense of duty with his antiwar feelings.
Anne Strobridge
A measured look at the time when a man faces the gap between the man he thinks he should be and the man he thinks he might be, without having much confidence in the rightness of either. I appreciated this look at all the different ways of being a man to be found in the 100% male Army Kidder knew, and I really appreciate the irony of how clearly most of them were trying to be good men while doing the business of war.
Although I like Kidder, I dreaded reading this book because it was a war memoir. But, in reality, it was more of a "why I was an idealistic, silly youth and how I spent my time in Vietnam". He made me laugh and smile, because of the way he talked about his thought process and his elaborate, fictional letters home. I related to his young self.
Frederick Bingham
This book is about the author's experience in Vietnam as an army intelligence officer. He was over there at a pretty low level, mainly intercepting and interpreting Vietcong radio signals. He was based near Chu Lai at an outlying operating base. He never saw combat like most of the other people who went over there.
Nov 11, 2014 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kidder writes about his life as a soldier in the Viet Nam War - a war that he didn't agree with. It is a sort of coming of age story but I just had trouble relating to him. I felt like the other people he wrote about were more complete characters than he was.
Thankfully it was a short book, as I rarely quit reading a book and might have struggled to finish this one.
Jeffrey Cain
Aug 20, 2016 Jeffrey Cain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a brutally honest memoir from a mid-level intelligence officer. It's interesting, mostly because it's hard to like the author / narrator. He seems to have been a congenital liar and has taken this occasion to purge his soul of all the falsehoods he's ever told. It does give you a sort of quotidian sense of the war's banality.
Kim hafner
Given that last FRiday the Winter Soldier 2008 was aired on the radio, i wanted to learn more about the original Winter Soldier and the Vietnam War in general. This book annoyed me. Kidder annoyed me. While it gave me a context, I was disappointed in his style given that he won the Pulitzer Prize. He was a bit sparse for my taste. Don't bother.
Nov 23, 2012 Jul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memoir of a man's experience in Vietnam, but not in combat, rather an intelligence officer. Seems very realistic of day to daylife. Pictuure of the challenges of supervising people. Contrasts and reules relating to rank.
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Tracy Kidder is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer. The book typifies his distinctive style of research. He began following the project at its inception and, in addition to interviews, spent c ...more
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