Michelle's Reviews > Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
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Aug 21, 2010

really liked it

Be sure you're in the right frame of mind to read this--it was quite sad. It is, after all, the story of when Caldwell loses her best friend. I enjoyed reading about how they met and how very much they actually had in common (from water sports to dogs to alcoholism). I couldn't help but think of my own best friend while reading this--although we're actually quite the polar opposites. But when the inevitable happens, Caldwell spares us nothing in the raw retelling of the unfolding events--this despite the buffer of several years. I had to put it down a few times. It's a beautiful book, but a hard one.

From Publisher's Weekly:
Caldwell (A Strong West Wind) has managed to do the inexpressible in this quiet, fierce work: create a memorable offering of love to her best friend, Caroline Knapp, the writer (Drinking: A Love Story) who died of lung cancer at age 42 in 2002. The two met in the mid-1990s: "Finding Caroline was like placing a personal ad for an imaginary friend, then having her show up at your door funnier and better than you had conceived." Both single, writers (Caldwell was then book critic for the Boston Globe), and living alone in the Cambridge area, the two women bonded over their dog runs in Fresh Pond Reservoir, traded lessons in rowing (Knapp's sport) and swimming (Caldwell's), and shared stories, clothes, and general life support as best friends. Moreover, both had stopped drinking at age 33 (Caldwell was eight years older than her friend); both had survived early traumas (Caldwell had had polio as a child; Knapp had suffered anorexia). Their attachment to each other was deeply, mutually satisfying, as Caldwell describes: "Caroline and I coaxed each other into the light." Yet Knapp's health began to falter in March 2002, with stagefour lung cancer diagnosed; by June she had died. Caldwell is unflinching in depicting her friend's last days, although her own grief nearly undid her; she writes of this desolating time with tremendously moving grace.
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