Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Freebie: The Long Walk by Brian Castner

Congratulations to Michael Cooper, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck.

This week's book giveaway is The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner.  This past year saw some outstanding examples of war literature hit the shelves--from the beautiful meditative memoir Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch to the harrowing novel The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers--but none had as honest and compelling an opening as Castner's book about his readjustment to "real life" after serving three tours of duty in the Middle East:
      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.
Notice how he capitalizes "Crazy," giving it the importance of an entity that has come home with him from the war zone and taken up residence at his house--an invisible, unwelcome guest who seems prepared to stay until forcibly evicted.  Castner's book describes how war changed him and, ultimately, how he changed himself after his return from battle.  Here's how the publisher's synopsis describes The Long Walk:
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.

If you'd like a chance at winning The Long Walk, all you have to do is email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Jan. 3at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Jan. 4.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week Quivering Pen newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

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