Mary McCoy'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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Sep 06, 10


When I heard about this book, I was instantly reminded of Ann Patchett's memoir about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty. While there are certainly parallels between the stories - female friendship, the writer's life, addiction - the two books resist comparison upon reading.

The reason for this is that there's a difference between the friends you meet in college, like Ann and Lucy's, where friend-making is facilitated, easy, and filled with moments that encourage lifelong intimacy, and the friendships forged well into adulthood.

That Caldwell and Caroline Knapp met seems like fate; that Caldwell lost her dear friend only a few years later seems cosmically unfair (Knapp died in 2002, at the age of 42). Caldwell writes about the response to the death of a loved one in a way that summons up to the reader that body blow of loss and grief.

Reading Knapp's memoir, Drinking: A Love Story, several years ago, I remember thinking how much I liked her (in addition to thinking that her memoir set the bar for addiction memoirs, and really memoirs, in general). Reading Caldwell's memoir made me wish I could have known her myself.
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Shelagh I also thought about Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy. Here's an odd small thing. Patchett begins her book with the dates of Grealy's life. She was born June 3, 1963. I remembered that after I read the book, because it's also the day I was born. In Gail Caldwell's memoir, she mentions that Caroline died on her father's birthday: June 3. Such a trivial detail, and it means nothing, but just as the synchronicity of those dates affects Gail Caldwell in her memoir, the irony of the dates, having already had Patchett's book in mind, struck me.


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