“The writers gathered in these pages are among the finest, and the material they are working with is, by its nature, powerful and compelling. The result is stories that are by turns brutal and hilarious, dark and redemptive. Every one of them speaks to a truth we should not, cannot, turn away from.” – Mary Roach, author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
Several summers ago, fellow veteran-turned-writer Adrian Bonenberger approached a few of us with an idea: let’s put together a new anthology of short stories about the Forever Wars.
Our aims were two-fold, and complimentary: To publish a diverse group of writers, and to tell a wide variety of stories.
We knew, from workshops and literary events and our own networks and community, that lots of new writers were producing different kinds of war stories. These weren’t the standard Iraq and Afghanistan tropes we had already read (and re-read) over the last decade, but many of these stories weren’t finding print. We decided to do our bit to help remedy that situation, at least a little. The result, two and a half years later, is The Road Ahead.
I’m very proud of the collection we’ve compiled. It includes authors who have already found publishing success, new writers placing their first pieces, and poets and playwrights and newspaper reporters producing fiction for the first time. Stories about lost helicopter pilots, grieving widows, sociopathic snipers, Afghan truck drivers, sex and drugs, ghosts and demons, refugees sold into slavery.
In short, twenty-four very different perspectives on the longest war in American history. Our stab at a few of the myriad human experiences of going to war, having war thrust upon you, surviving it, coming home.
“These twenty-four intimate, brutal, unusual and honest portraits show us the startling effects of war, dispelling the myth that any military solution is simple. To this diverse group of writers, women and men, I say thank you for your wrenching stories. The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is greater than we could have imagined.” – Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters
“The Road Ahead is a stunning, poignant, astonishing, mournful, melancholy, brutally honest collection of stories about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and makes this old soldier’s heart sore. They are so well written. If you want to understand our young soldiers and the world they lived in, read these stories.” – Larry Heinemann, author of National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story
“If war is eternal, its form alters with the times. These vivid stories are the up-to-date bulletins from the frontline of today. Injustices abound, meaning eludes us, until for moments, it doesn’t. These writers deliver gut-wrecking reports of humanity at the edge of despair and offer us truths about the nature of war and the men and women struggling to survive it.” – Susan Minot, author of Evening and Thirty Girls
“The Road Ahead more than lived up to its promise–a shockingly brilliant salvo in the next wave of literature about our perpetual wars, a diverse and strange new literature which is utterly essential if we want to understand who we are as a nation, and what this era of constant war is doing to us, to our military, and to the countries where we send our men and women to kill and die.” – Phil Klay, author of National Book Award-winning Redeployment
“Whatever image readers may have of veterans of the U.S. military’s seemingly never-ending engagement in Afghanistan, the ranks certainly included talented writers with sophisticated worldviews and ample amounts of self-awareness. That is reflected in nearly every one of the 24 stories collected in The Road Ahead.” – San Antonio Express-News
“Authentic, gritty, tragic, and real.” – Task & Purpose
“Covers a literary terrain as expansive as the seemingly endless “war on terror” that spawned it.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Savor each of the 24 distinctive tales by 24 veterans in a collection that makes you want to read more by the contributors.” – Military Times
“Most stories in The Road Ahead are told in a realistic mode, but suitable attention is paid to the surreal and disorienting elements of war and homecoming.” – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
(Cover photo credit (for the book and this post): Benjamin Busch)