Summary and book reviews of The Long Walk by Brian Castner

The Long Walk

A Story of War and the Life That Follows

By Brian Castner

The Long Walk
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2012,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2013,
    240 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

In the tradition of Michael Herr's Dispatches and works by such masters of the memoir as Mary Karr and Tobias Wolff, a powerful account of war and homecoming that grabs readers by the throat even as it touches their hearts.

Brian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them as the commander of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. Days and nights he and his team - his brothers - would venture forth in heavily armed convoys from their Forward Operating Base to engage in the nerve-racking yet strangely exhilarating work of either disarming the deadly improvised explosive devices that had been discovered, or picking up the pieces when the alert came too late. They relied on an army of remote-controlled cameras and robots, but if that technology failed, a technician would have to don the eighty-pound Kevlar suit, take the Long Walk up to the bomb, and disarm it by hand. This lethal game of cat and mouse was, and continues to be, the real war within America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But The Long Walk is not just about battle itself. It is also an unflinching portrayal of the toll war exacts on the men and women who are fighting it. When Castner returned home to his wife and family, he began a struggle with a no less insidious foe, an unshakable feeling of fear and confusion and survivor's guilt that he terms The Crazy. His thrilling, heartbreaking, stunningly honest book immerses the reader in two harrowing and simultaneous realities: the terror and excitement and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the enemy within - the haunting memories that will not fade, the survival instincts that will not switch off. After enduring what he has endured, can there ever again be such a thing as "normal"? The Long Walk will hook you from the very first sentence, and it will stay with you long after its final gripping page has been turned.

I
Whirl Is King

The first thing you should know about me is that I’m Crazy.

I haven’t always been. Until that one day, the day I went Crazy, I was fine. Or I thought I was. Not anymore.

My Crazy is a feeling. It’s the worst, most intolerable feeling I’ve ever had. And it never goes away.

When you’re Crazy, you make a list of people you have told, the people you have come out to. My list is small. One best friend but not another. Jimbo and John and Greg, but not the other guys on the team. Your wife but not your mother. Those that you think will get it, will understand.

And now I’m telling you. That I’m Crazy, and I don’t know why.

The second thing you should know about me is that I don’t know how to fix it. Or control it. Or endure from one moment to the next. The Crazy is winning.

So I run.

I run every day, twice a day sometimes, out the front door of my peaceful suburban home, past sticky blast scenes of sewage, and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The Long Walk is a scathingly honest portrayal of the stress of war, the depth of loss soldiers experience and the immense challenges many of our returning veterans face every day. It should be required reading for anyone considering a military career, and is a must-read for those seeking to better understand the ultimate costs of war paid by the men and women who wage it for us (and by the families who stand beside them). It's sure to become a classic of wartime literature.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Scarifying stuff, without any mawkishness or dumb machismo - not quite on the level of Jarhead, but absolutely worth reading.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [The Long Walk] effectively conveys how a disturbing mental condition can erupt in the aftermath of nightmarish war horrors.

Author Blurb Jon Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory
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.

Author Blurb Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
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 the 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.

Author Blurb Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco's Story and Close Quarters
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.

Author Blurb Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble
Damn, this is a very human book. If you have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan, or know someone who has, you need to read The Long Walk.

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Improvised Explosive Devices

An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is an inexpensive, low-tech weapon designed to cause death or injury to enemy forces. The British Army was the first to call such homemade bombs IEDs in the 1970s, referring to the fertilizer and Semtex explosives used by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Although IEDs have become a common term in recent years, improvised explosives are not a new concept: Greek historians record the use of fire ships to ram and burn the enemy in 415 BCE and the deployment of incendiary war pigs against war elephants in 266 BCE. In more recent history, jury-rigged bombs and mines were employed in the United States' Civil War and the Resistance across occupied Europe made good use of them during World ...

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