I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them

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What to expect

In this powerful debut novel, three American soldiers haunted by their actions in Afghanistan search for absolution and human connection in family and civilian life.

Wintric Ellis joins the army as soon as he graduates from high school, saying goodbye to his girlfriend, Kristen, and to the backwoods California town whose borders have always been the limits of his horizon. Deployed for two years in Afghanistan in a directionless war, he struggles to find his bearings in a place where allies could at any second turn out to be foes. Two career soldiers, Dax and Torres, take Wintric under their wing. Together, these three men face an impossible choice: risk death or commit a harrowing act of war.

The aftershocks echo long after each returns home to a transfigured world, where his own children may fear to touch him and his nightmares still hold sway. Jesse Goolsby casts backward and forward in time to track these unforgettable characters from childhood to parenthood, from redwood forests to open desert roads to the streets of Kabul. Hailed by Robert Olen Butler as a “major literary event,” I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them is a work of disarming eloquence and heart-wrenching wisdom—a debut novel from a writer to watch.

Critics Review

  • “Not only is Jesse
    Goolsby one of the very rare authors who writes with authoritative insight into
    the warfare of the twenty-first century, he does so with an even deeper insight
    into the universal human condition. Goolsby’s real subject, always, is the
    profound yearning for connection, for identity, that drives us all. He is a
    consummate artist, and the publication of I’d
    Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them
    is a major literary event.”

    Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize–winning author
  • “Long after the
    combatants and non-combatants alike have vanished from this earth, the
    afterlife of war is a book, war’s only survivor, and every true book about war
    cries out, ‘Stop,’ or at least, ‘Remember.’ I’d
    Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them
    , Jesse Goolsby’s ambitious, multilayered,
    brutally honest debut novel, is such a book, an antidote to our nation’s
    disconnect from our misadventures overseas.”

    Bob Shacochis, National Book Award–winning author
  • “Why do we honor combat veterans? In his new novel, Air Force officer Jesse Goolsby asks that question through the stories of three veterans, their experiences in war, and their lives back at home. I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them is grounded in the wars of the last fifteen years, but Goolsby points out the action takes place as much in the private lives the men lead in America as it does on the battlefield…‘Those who have seen combat—it’s such a difficult thing …[he says] ‘to work through and process. But I think at the core of it, we just want a conversation about what our country asks of us. And not just what our country asks of our service members, but what it asks of their families, of their friends, and of their communities.’”

  • “Goolsby expertly renders his characters, bringing their struggles to life.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “Traveling back and forth through time, Goolsby explores the challenges these men face before, during, and after their military tours, portraying their stresses vividly and palpably.”

  • “This bracing, riveting debut opens in Afghanistan, and actions there shadow the lives of Goolsby’s characters. But it’s the accidents, debts, and desires of the home front that continue to wreak havoc as war memories turn into just that—memories—and soldiers mired in the past realize that tackling the future may be their true struggle after all.”

    Siobhan Fallon, actress, and author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

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