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.
With a degree in electrical engineering, Castner served as an air force officer in Saudi Arabia in 2001, and Iraq in 2005 and 2006, where he earned a Bronze Star. He then trained military Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in tactical bomb procedures. Castner s chilling account of those years is, he feels, as correct as a story can be from someone with blast-induced memory lapses. He details daily rituals and routines, and the Humvee expeditions, seeking improvised explosive devices (IED) with robots. When robots fail, there is the Long Walk, wearing the bomb suit ( eighty pounds of mailed kevlar ). Castner edges through this world of hidden dangers, suicide bombers, and scattered body parts. Throughout, he splices in scenes of the aftermath his return to his wife and family in the U.S., where he is told he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Haunted by what he calls the Crazy ( it s grey spidery fingers take the top of my head off to eat my brain and heart every night ), he sees constant reminders that blur reality ( IEDs on Interstate 90 ). The intercutting of these two different narratives effectively conveys how a disturbing mental condition can erupt in the aftermath of nightmarish war horrors.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very raw, very real.
The book jumps from one place to another, once you get used to that its hard not to get wrapped up in the text.
I read this after listening to Castner's interview on NPR, which was enlightening and frightening both at the same time. The writing style in this book is quite reminiscent of Anthony Swafford's Jarhead. Unfortunately, in The Long Walk it seems forced, compared to Swofford's effortless, poetic way of retelling events and painting pictures. The story on its own is good enough that the writing didn't need any of these embellishments, but perhaps others authors way of dealing with the emotional fallout of three tours in an EOD unit. A good read all in all.
This book was a walk through my own crazy and a must read for anyone struggling to overcome the challenges of dealing with the emotional toll left long after the combat ends.