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The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows [Kindle Edition]

Brian Castner
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Book Description

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.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: To those trained in Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the last-resort tactic for defusing bombs is known as the Long Walk: a soldier dealing with the device up close, alone, with no margin for error. The Long Walk is Brian Castner's tale of two wars. He fought the first in Iraq, serving two tours dismantling roadside bombs before they exploded, or wading through the grisly carnage of unchecked detonations. The second battle began when he returned home, his life exploding as he stepped from a curb into what he calls the Crazy: a consuming froth of panic and undiagnosed pain that alienated him from his family and compelled him to rig his minivan with ammunition clips for faster reloads while driving through suburbia. With its tense and claustrophobic portraits of the violent streets of Kirkuk, Castner's account is a dead-on description of modern warfare in an unfamiliar land. But it also offers sober insight into the stresses of war on the human body and mind (the effects of blast waves on soft tissues--especially in the brain--are chilling), destruction wrought on those left behind, and the long, lonely walk home. --Jon Foro


“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

The Long Walk brings home in a visceral way the hidden, personal burden of war that many veterans continue to carry.” —The Boston Globe
“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.”—The New York Times Book Review
“What makes Castner’s astonishing memoir so unique is his forthright, unflinching look at postwar life.” —Dallas Morning News

“Castner succeeds in taking readers into the mind of a man who is hopelessly scarred by war.” —USA Today

“Direct and disturbing. . . . A painful but compelling read, even as Castner finds ways to cope, at least partially, with his long walk back at home.” —Morning Edition (NPR)

“Brutally honest [and] sharply observed. . . . The Long Walk is both harrowing and poignant—an intensely personal story of what it takes not just to survive war, but also to fully leave behind the nightmare of combat and readapt to ordinary life.” —The Daily Beast

“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 American-Statesman

“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.” —

“A raw, wrenching, blood-soaked chronicle of the human cost of war. 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

“A powerful book about the long cost of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms. . . . [Castner’s] honesty is refreshing and the book is written with such candor and openness that one can’t help but root for him.” —Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

“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. . . . 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.” —Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story and Close Quarters

Product Details

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was of two minds when I read this book - there were times when I didn't like it, when I was like "gad, another, 'I'm crazy' memoir from the war," but I was equally impressed with author Brian Castner's raw, and earned, emotion. He does not back off the details, or take the easy way around any of his stories. There's a lot of pain here, and he gives it to the reader in full measure.

It's got its flaws. I appreciate his difficulties in re-acclimating to the US, after his tour as an officer in charge of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. But as a reader, I did not need Castner's constant "I'm Crazy" with a capital C to make his point. I got his point without that, and it felt overboard at times.

But - Castner's not a 'school-trained' writer or memoirist. What might be melodramatic from a writer with a creative writing degree began to seem, as I read, more honest and forthright from Castner - because maybe he doesn't know how else to say it, except with "Crazy" with a capital C. Is there some literary metaphor that would do as good a job? Maybe not.

Castner's description of the EOD job itself is excellent. This is a real-life 'Hurt Locker,' minus the phony dramatics. On the ground, it's simply a grinding, dangerous job. This made me appreciate the training and attention to detail that the job obviously requires.

He does an outstanding job defining and explaining Traumatic Brain Injury, and why it's a more common injury than I had previously considered.

There are a few times when I think he took dramatic license a bit too far (he mentions unloading a chambered pistol round in a colonel's office - maybe it happened, but I've never heard of loaded weapons being carried inside a headquarters).
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author is a former American soldier who served three terms of duty in the Middle East. That seems enough to leave him crazy but his role in the elite team that disarmed explosive devices impacted him forever in a number of ways. His job was one that required nerves of steel and a willingness to expose himself to constant danger and tension. He saw the results of the specific kinds of horrors of this war up close and personal, trapped in his uncomfortable body armor and participating in death and destruction. He and the elite members of his bomb squad wore uncomfortable protective gear but sometimes they had to just walk up to a bomb and disarm it and sometimes they were blown to pieces. Not only was the tension constant, but other aspects of their experience, such as traveling in uncomfortable small planes for hours and being exposed to heat and cold and nausea were part of the deal.

The author is brutally honest in his descriptions of the job itself, his fellow soldiers, the expensive high-tech weapons and the horror of watching victims of explosions having their remains blown over the landscape. Much of this is hard to read.

And then, later, after his discharge, the nightmares and craziness started, impacting is life with his wife and four children and making his civilian world a horrible nightmare. It took years of trauma and therapy for him to be able to write this book and it was these long-lasting effects that horrified me even more than the lurid descriptions of the actual bomb blasts.

I learned more in this book than I ever wanted to know about the war in the Middle East told from this author's personal point of view. I identified with his willingness to serve his country as well as his later problems in adjusting to the civilian world. I also applaud his courage for writing his book and sharing it with the world.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Long Walk is a train of consciousness memoir written from memory by Brian Castner following his multiple deployments in Iraq and final training of new Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) volunteers prior to their deployment. It expresses extremely well the mental trauma that follows our combat veterans home; but no one who hasn't experienced it can truly understand the intensity of that trauma.
He expresses to his wife Jesse how he writes this with no souvenirs, no research documents, and no notes: "I don't try to remember. I don't need to. I am surrounded by reminders; the images simply emerge in the front of my thoughts." There is a very poignant segment where he describes carefully dressing his son before a hockey game. It reminds him of dressing an EOD brother for the Long Walk - to personally attempt to disarm an explosive device. As his son heads for the ice, Brian's memories hit him hard - "I have just sent my seven year old son on the Long Walk."
Brian Castner's technique really pulls the reader into his story. Brian's memories jump back and forth between today's activities safely at home and his experiences in Iraq; so does his book. Just as these memories impact his life without warning, this story impacts the reader's perception of the frustration - even horror - of living with these memories superimposed over the mundane tasks of civilian living.
Amazon asks reviewers to indicate how much they like the book being reviewed. I cannot say "I love it!" about this book - how can I like or love what happened to Brian Castner or any other combat veteran? But I must give it five stars! It will stay with me a long time. This memoir will help me to understand that none of our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, or fathers return from the obscene violence of war the same.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story about war, life an resurrection.
While a story about war and its aftermath, the author beautifully describes the ravages of life big and small and how we can overcome them if we want to. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Neal B. Rubin
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving book
A very good read. Was pulled into it and he made me really care about the people on the page. It is to be the subject of an opera. Hope I get to hear it.
Published 1 month ago by Mildred Popiolkowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
thought provoking
Published 2 months ago by Hazel Hagerty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Husband loved it
Published 3 months ago by B. Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars A true testimony of the effects of war!!!
I've read many books in the military genre and I can honestly say -- The Long Walk is like none other. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. Charles Wimer III
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy in the Mask of Truth
I give the book five stars for Brian's honesty, his bluntness about what occurred to him at the moment. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Justin Forest
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Phenomenal. Should be required reading.
Published 5 months ago by marsh ortega
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Curtis Ackeret
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not great - not bad
Published 5 months ago by Jason Salyards
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You
Thank you for writing this book. For putting words on paper words to many carry in their heads every day. Thank you for your sacrifice and the sacrifice of your family.
Published 6 months ago by Donna
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