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

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

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 their horizon. Deployed in Afghanistan two years into a directionless war, he struggles to find his bearings in a place where allies could, at any second, turn out to be foes. Two seasoned 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.

This richly textured novel telescopes through time to track these unforgettable characters from childhood to parenthood, from redwood forests to open desert roads to the streets of Kabul. Throughout, Jesse Goolsby tackles questions we all face: What is the price of forgiveness? Where can we turn for companionship and understanding? Most of all, what responsibility do we bear toward others: friends, parents, lovers, children, strangers halfway across the world? When violence threatens to sever the links between us, we must strive for connection — at any cost.

Both a timely meditation on the weight of war and a humane tale of family, friendship, and love, I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them is a novel of disarming eloquence and heart-wrenching wisdom, and the debut of a bold new voice in fiction.


I just read the most satisfying novel in years, Jesse Goolsby’s I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them. It is not just a war novel but rather an earthquake in your soul novel. That art that shakes you down. I am blown away.”

Michael Garriga, author of The Book of Duels

“Every page of this beautiful and brutal novel is about war, though only a few of the battles take place in Afghanistan. Between the “attacking memories” and the “well-meaning half-truths” of war’s American aftermath, interlocking narratives show us how violence and damage invade the daily lives of veterans, their wives, their children, their friends and all the rest of us. A luminous literary debut.”

- Janet Burroway, author of Losing Tim

“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, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

I’d Walk with my Friends If I Could Find Them is a thrilling and inventive story told in snapshots that will grab you by the heart and stay with you long after you turn the last page.”

- Kristopher Jansma, author of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them offers a heartbreaking and humane lens into the lives of those connected to war, refusing to avert its gaze when confronted with even the most gut-wrenching situations. Jesse Goolsby recognizes that the battlefield stretches far beyond the demarcations of a combat zone, or the borders of Afghanistan. That said, this is not strictly a book about war—this is a book about the human heart. This is the news, rarely told, of the actual world we live in.

- Brian Turner, author of My Life as a Foreign Country and Here, Bullet