Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brian Castner - The Long Walk - A Story of War and the Life That Follows

This is a very difficult book to review.  The Long Walk is the other book being featured by Silicon Valley Reads this year for their "Invisible Wounds of War" theme.  As you know, I love Sue Diaz's Minefields of the Heart.  This one I don't love.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Let me see if I can explain my feelings for this book.

First of all, this is, of course, the true story of Brian Castner's 3 tours of duty in Iraq, 2 of them as a bomb demolition expert and the commander of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit.  It's a harrowing account of his time there - the daily missions, the constant danger, and the loss of lives, both his people as well as the Iraqis.  Along with the terror, though, he talks of the excitement surrounding what he did.  He also gives us insight about his time at home, in between deployments as well as after he leaves the service (he was actually in the Air Force - all 4 of the military services had soldiers in Iraq who specialized in bomb demolition).

This is one of the reasons why the book is so hard to review.  Here we have page after page of Brian talking about the risk he faced on a daily basis - on many occasions multiple times in the same day.  It is unimaginable what he went through.  And, yet, I thought the repeated descriptions of the missions got to be a bit tedious.  He does talk about being home and constantly being assaulted by the Crazy.  The only time he doesn't feel like that is when he is running, which he does once or twice every day.  He talks about his Old Shrink and his New Shrink.  He tells us about yoga.  I think that is helpful to him, but I'm not sure.  In fact, I'm not sure if any of it has helped.  It's very tough to tell.

So here's my problem.  I feel like a heel because I can't rave about a book that I want to rave about.  Maybe if I hadn't read Sue's outstanding book first, The Long Walk would resonate better with me.  But I did read it first.  And although it's very hard to follow a 4 (out of 4), I think my feelings about Brian's book are not based on Minefields.  I really feel that reading about the missions got tiresome.  And I really am confused about whether or not the counseling he gets back home, along with the yoga, helps him.  I love what Brian has done for the country, and I feel badly for what he has gone (and still goes) through.  But do I love the book?  Sadly, I don't.


  1. It does sound like an interesting and relevant topic but maybe the book could have used tighter editing.

    1. It's tough to pinpoint. But there's no question that the focus on returning veterans is an important one. Thanks for the comment.