“Taut as a drawn bow… Its authenticity rings through, in both the battlefield scenes and his account of a family under strain.” – CJ Chivers, The New York Times Magazine
“I think my favorite [book of the Iraq War] so far is The Long Walk, a memoir by a bomb-disposal technician, Brian Castner.” – Tom Ricks, author of The Generals, The Gamble, and Fiasco
“A candid and unflinching account … [that] warps the arc of the traditional coming-of-age story.” – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
New York Times Editor’s Pick
An Amazon Best Book of 2012
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
An Indiebound Next List Selection
Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle 2013 Selection
Silicon Valley Reads Selection for 2013
Developed into an opera by American Lyric Theater
On February 6th, 2010, I went Crazy. I didn’t know why, or how to fix it. I just knew it was intolerable, and it had to stop, one way or the other. To make sense of it, to understand what was happening to me, I wrote a book about it, the best way I knew how.
The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows is the intertwined story of two journeys: an outward struggle of surviving the urban combat of modern war in order to return home at all costs, and the inward journey to find the new person that emerges after undertaking such a task. I had the privilege to command two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq. We disrupted roadside improvised explosive devices, investigated the aftermath of car bombs, and searched house-to-house to find bomb-makers where they lived. It was a job I embraced and enjoyed, and I found meaning in the work and camaraderie in the brotherhood of operators who do that job. And despite being surrounded by the gory horrors of war and facing near-death experiences, I somehow never considered what life would be like once I went on the final call to dismantle a roadside bomb.
Once I got back to the United States and left the military, once I was home alone with nothing but my thoughts, I couldn’t put the war aside and move on. Even as I had trouble remembering the formative moments that comprised my former life – children being born, family milestones – small everyday occurrences reminded me of each mission in Iraq, and the experience of the war endured. After countless trips to the hospital emergency room for heart attacks that never happened, I realized that the problem was in my mind. This book examines my struggle to confront the new person who came home from Iraq.
“The Long Walk is a raw, wrenching, blood-soaked chronicle of the human cost of war. Brian Castner, the leader of a military bomb disposal team, recounts his deployment to Iraq with unflinching candor, and in the process exposes crucial truths not only about this particular conflict, but also about war throughout history. Castner’s memoir brings to mind Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece, All Quiet on the Western Front. ” – Jon Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory
“Do you want to know a little something about our war in Iraq? Begin with The Long Walk, Brian Castner’s elegant, superbly written story about the bomb-disposal guys. As you read think of Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Castner gives us that steady rhythm of one foot in front of the other. Think of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Here is the reality of the exhausted mind, and of profound thought wandering all Creation: this is what I saw, this is what I did, this is what I have become. It’s the story of the long walk out, as they say, from the Humvee to the bomb in the street, and the long look back.” – Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story and Close Quarters
“Castner has written a powerful book about the long cost of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms. Remarkably, he has made the world of EOD entertaining, occasionally hilarious, and always harrowing. His honesty is refreshing and the book is written with such candor and openness that one can’t help but root for him. And did I mention that it is entertaining? There were scenes at work with the bomb disposal unit where I found myself holding my breath.”– Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“It may be the most important book written about modern war.” – Stephen Phillips, author Proximity and The Recipient’s Son
“The enduring treachery of memory . . . remains the real, unfinished story of The Long Walk. It takes as much courage for Castner to confront that memory as it does to face an active fuse.”- New York Times – August 19, 2012
“What makes Castner’s astonishing memoir so unique is his forthright, unflinching look at postwar life.” – Dallas Morning News – July 27, 2012
“The Long Walk brings home in a visceral way the hidden, personal burden of war that many veterans continue to carry.” – The Boston Globe – July 20, 2012
“He gives equal, if not more, weight to the time and effort that goes into readjusting to his family life, and his straightforward, unself-conscious writing paints an absorbing picture of war in the twenty-first century. . . . Castner’s experience isn’t everyone’s, of course, but a memoir like his can help to bridge that gap between civilians and today’s military.” – The New Yorker – July 12, 2012
“So viscerally engaging that it’s hard to read it without shaking. Castner writes with a keen mind, sharp intellect and literary flair. . . . [and] the desperate immediacy of a man whose skin has been burned away.” – Austin Statesman – July 28, 2012
“Castner’s book maps out this new and sorrowful territory with the skill and focus of someone who has had to defuse a bomb inside his own body.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune – August 25, 2012