The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
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The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  813 ratings  ·  192 reviews
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 arm...more
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Published July 10th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Cynthia
Soldier’s Heart

I’ve long wondered what it’s been like for our current service people. Like many Westerners I have very little idea what life, not to mention war, is like in the Middle East. It’s worse than I thought. Castner’s account is straight forward and unblinkingly honest. He was a bomb expert during his tour. He describes the arduous training prior to going to Kirkuk Iraq and how competitive it is. I was lost even with this concept. Who the heck is so driven that they WANT to go to such a...more
Jill Stadelmaier
If I could give a book 10 stars, this would be the book. And maybe I'm biased, I know the author personally. But, I also work treating veterans for PTSD and a range of other emotional and behavioral difficulties. And in the three years I've been working at the Veteran Hospital, I have read many many books about veterans, combat, PTSD, I've seen the movies and the documentaries, both fiction and non-fiction. And I have to say, without a doubt, this book is the best, most thought-provoking, most h...more
Holly
Very personal account of a soldier's love affair with and devastation by warfare. Had the feel of poetry from the gut. He talks a lot about a sense of brotherhood among soldiers, and reflects some about the damage done to Iraqi people's lives in the pursuit of... whatever it was America was pursuing in Iraq. A happy ending? An honorable departure? I don't know and he doesn't seem to consider it his business to worry about it much either. In his work removing roadside bombs, he does notice and tr...more
Ben Cook
Brian did a great job. I must admit that we've been friends for a while, however that doesn't mean that I wouldn't tell him his book sucked if I thought so. It's a great account and is true to form. Scooter is guts and loyalty and this book has them both is spades.
Alicen
"When I left Iraq, the US military had occupied it for five years. But we didn't collectively have five years of experience; we had one year of experience five times."

I picked up this book as I had heard it portrayed as one the first good memoirs to come out the Iraq war and it did not disappoint it its raw and (what I imagine to be) real portrayal not only of going to war in Iraq but what it was like to come home. Although it felt very sparse to me in its telling - which did not fully allow me...more
Sorayya Khan
There's a Sufi poet, Waris Shah, who has a line that goes something like this: "The people who say - those who go away to war will return - tell lies."
The Long Walk, Brian Castner's remarkable chronicle of his war (three tours in Iraq and then home) is testament to this. The people who leave for war are not the people who return. The reality is heart breaking and true, regardless of the specific war. Castner suggests much the same thing in this excerpt:

My wife is alone in our full bed too. Her...more
Rachel
Every once in a while a book that I would never expect to catch my attention calls to me from the stacks. It always happens in person. I usually happens accidentally. I’ve learned to never let myself walk away. With this book, I was fighting with the return box at the library and it was sitting on the ‘new book’ shelf to my left.

The cover and log line grabbed me even though I have zero natural literary interest in war (err... note my other reviews). I read the back and put it back down. Ages ago...more
Grady
`The first thing you should know about me is that I'm Crazy'

And with a first sentence of a book of past and active memoirs Brian Castner has his reader by the ear, the eye, and every sensory receptor of the body. This is one of those books that burn like acid on the skin causing pain at first and as it gradually heals it leaves a scar - a mark, a blight, an indelible reminder of the original episode. Many soldiers have written about their experiences in battle - from the greats such as alt Whitm...more
Doubleday  Books
"The first thing you should know about me is that I'm crazy." In The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows, Brian Castner heartbreakingly shares anything but your typical war story. Castner takes us on a personal journey through not one, but two wars -- one in Iraq, and the other within himself -- brilliantly intertwining the two in a way so explosively raw.

Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East as an officer of the U.S. Air Force, two of them as the commander of an...more
Murphy Waggoner
Castner's writing conveys, both through style and content, how all-consuming his job in Iraq was -- the hyper vigilance, the constant assessment of danger, the need to kill -- and how he found it impossible to disengage from that life and reenter his family life when the tour was over. There is no doubt that reentry is difficult, under any circumstances, and VA hospital staff struggle to decide how much of that difficulty is physical or psychological. The answer is a moving target since the meth...more
Mark
“"Don't be scared of the soft sand."

A soldier, decked out in full bomb gear, an 80 pound Kevlar suit, making the “long walk” toward an armed bomb. Is there anything more desolate or terrifying? Brian Castner served three tours in Iraq, as part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.
This is the story of two journeys: the adrenaline-fueled, blood-soaked world of the combat soldier and the equally difficult return to a “normal” life.
This is a raw, emotional memoir, filled with riveting prose. Cas...more
Chinook
There were a few parts of this book that really hit home for me, even though I will never go to war and I most certainly won't disable bombs. The running to pound down your other feelings - yeah, I get that. The brain exhaustion that comes from it having to work harder for the same simple tasks, yeah, I get that.

On top of that, I found this book fascinating because it presents us with a situation where someone got what they really, really wanted and then found that that thing had fucked them up....more
Dawn
Generally speaking, I like depressing books, but this one was SUPER depressing. I liked it, because it was written differently, and the way the author continually went back and forth from past to present was interesting, but I seriously need some ice cream and a hug after this one.
John Pappas
The title of Castner's memoir refers to both the name for the method of last resort used to dismantle IEDs and other explosive ordinance in Iraq (putting on protective gear and walking solo to try to defuse the bomb) and, metaphorically, the soldier's lonely struggle to reconcile his or her post-war self with his or her pre-war self. Castner juxtaposes harrowing scenes from his three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with wrenching moments from after his return home as he attempts to deal wi...more
Johanna
An enlightening book. I found the first 100 pages a tough slog but then the author seemed to hit his stride and I couldn't put it down. I learned a lot about modern warfare, things I never thought of like boredom, the constant threat from civilians (where is that next suicide bomber coming from), the dirt, the heat or cold, the state of constant alertness, you are never 'off', the way war gives your life meaning and purpose that isn't possible in most lives. And the terrible, terrible after effe...more
Joe
The best Iraq memoir there is and will be, part Slaughterhouse 5, part Book of Nightmares, all real, and still continuing. The ending is not happy or sad, just a statement: this war will go on, here and everywhere, for a long time.

My favorite section:

The Long Walk. Armor on, gird with breastplate and helm and leggings and collar. No one can put on the bomb suit alone; your Brother has to dress you, overalls pulled up, massive jacket tucked, earnest in its careful thoroughness. Eighty pounds of...more
Peter Derk
Excerpt:

When I deployed for the first time [my wife] asked her grandmother for advice. Her grandfather served in Africa and Europe in World War II. Her grandmother would know what to do.

"How do I live with him being gone? How do I help him when he comes home?" my wife asked.

"He won't come home," her grandmother answered. "The war will kill him one way or the other. I hope for you that he dies while he is there. Otherwise the war will kill him at home. With you."


The story of Brian Castner's Crazy...more
Piepie
I've read several accounts of soldier's war & post-war experiences. Like them, this narrative is told in jagged dis-ruptures which so powerfully convey the soldier/vet's fractured & broken thought process/emotional state.

Castner, an Air Force officer, served 3 tours in Iraq, twice commanding an Explosive Ordinance Device unit. This memoir shifts violently between the tensions of his war time tours as he & his EOD unit are called out to dispose of bombs along the roads, investigate s...more
Amanda Mcclellan


Not my typical reading material, but was highly recommended to me by a dear friend (Ben) and I picked it up immediately. I must say, I'm glad that I did. This book is raw, griping, brilliant, and changed my perspective on war and its effects on our soldiers in many ways. For a civilian like me, war and deployment are something that I see only on TV and in movies. Sure, I have some friends who are military and have been deployed/are currently deployed, but I don't live with them after they retur...more
Nicholas
This book was great,(The Long Walk A Story and Life That Follows)by Brain Castner. I think the author really wanted to express his life. Of that a person goes through in his foot steps. I saw the title and The Long Walk symbolizes he way through greatness. And how he wanted to succeed throughout the harsh moments that made him crazy. I really enjoyed how he expressed his self during the beginning of the book. Such as, telling how crazy he is. It was pretty funny hearing that. Also, I am really i...more
K.D.
I have to admit, I was lost at times. The author gives a lot of description about the bombs and military operations in Iraq that I did not fully understand. I also wasn't sure throughout the book if I liked the style of writing. It jumped all over the place and sometimes it was difficult to discern when certain things happened. What it came down to, though was that what our military goes through is gut-wrenching. None of us who haven't been there can fully understand it.
Katey Schultz
Hands down, the best Iraq war memoir that I have read. For those in search of a deeply personal, honest, yet not-at-all sappy look at the impacts of war, this is the memoir to read. Castnter's intuitive writing style lends itself beautifully on page--with use of repeated imagery, short and long sentences, and manipulation of pacing and chronology to create a powerful impact. I tore through this book and would read it again in a heartbeat. Highly recommended.
Winston Hsu

The main character in The Long Walk serves as a memoir for an EOD technician by the name of Brain Castner. This book really shocked me as a reader because it really differs from many other authors, such as Tom Clancy. Brian's compilation of his experiences during his duty was so surreal. He talked about living with PTSD everyday in his memoir. For many people who have served in the military like Brian, the fight never ends even after they return from Afghanistan or Iraq. With this, what really...more
Becky
I picked up Brian Castner's book since it was chosen as one of the two selections for this year's Silicon Valley Reads. I did not expect to like or necessarily even finish the book. However, from the very first sentence to the last, I could hardly put this book down. I ended up reading it in 24 hours. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Kimberly Miller
The first line of this book is "the first thing you should know about is I'm crazy". And although it sounds funny.... That is a powerful statement. and if you know anyone who suffers from combat-related PTSD you get it. I'm really looking forward to finishing this book.
Joshua Emil
"How do you remember everything?" my wife asks, as she stands over my shoulder while I type this book. She has noted the lack of research, journals, annotations, personal effects, and mementos piled on the writing desk.

I discovered this book when I read the Goodreads Monthly Newsletter (I forgot which month and year). The basic description was the story of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician or in layman's term Bomb Squad operator in his tours of duty in Iraq and the journey of reco...more
Sharon
Purchased this book at Brooklyn Book Festival because the passages the author read were so beautiful, even though one was about finding a stinking colon after responding to a bomb call. There is much debate in literary circles about what kind, if any, important literature will come out of this decade's wars in the Middle East; this one has to be at the forefront of any such discussion, in my opinion (along with The Watch: A Novel, the author of which is who drew me to the BKBF panel).

The power...more
Chris Ross
I listened to the audio book narrated by the author. He is a great speaker. The book is written or spoken in short, quick sentences that punctuate the body and the air. The style is very similar to that of "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey, fast paced, raw, visceral and nothing left unsaid. I have read a lot of books about Iraq and Afghanistan and this one is unique in that Brian Castner talks about both his tours in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and his life back at home in the States after retur...more
Jennifer
This is definitely not a typical genre for me and I confess that the only reason I picked it up is that he and I share a surname (but aren't related, or certainly not closely).

This is, as far as I can tell given my limited reading in this genre, a great memoir about one man's experience serving as a bomb tech in Iraq and then finding a new life or some semblance of it at home again in the States. He's brutally honest and forthright about his struggle.

A paragraph in his Author's Note says it al...more
Uwe Hook
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...more
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Brian Castner served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer in the US Air Force from 1999 to 2007, deploying to Iraq to command bomb disposal units in Balad and Kirkuk in 2005 and 2006. After leaving the active military, he became a consultant and contractor, training Army and Marine Corps units prior to their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has appeared in Wired, The Daily Beast, Th...more
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