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The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down

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WITH AN IRREPRESSIBLE TASTE for adventure, candor, and a vivid sense of place, award-winning travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy takes us on a deeply personal journey played out amid some of the world’s most evocative locales.

Unable to commit to his fiancée of nearly four years—and with no clear understanding of what’s holding him back—Andrew McCarthy finds himself at a crossroads, plagued by doubts that have clung to him for a lifetime. Something in his character has kept him always at a distance, preventing him from giving himself wholeheartedly to the woman he loves and from becoming the father that he knows his children deserve. So before he loses everything he cares about, Andrew sets out to look for answers.

Hobbling up the treacherous slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, dodging gregarious passengers aboard an Amazonian riverboat, and trudging through dense Costa Rican rain forests—Andrew takes us on exotic trips to some of the world’s most beautiful places, but his real journey is one of the spirit.

On his soul-searching voyages, Andrew traces the path from his New Jersey roots, where acting saved his life—and early fame almost took it away—to his transformation into a leading travel writer. He faces the real costs of his early success and lays bare the evolving nature of his relationships with women. He explores a strained bond with his father, and how this complex dynamic shapes his own identity as a parent. Andrew charts his journey from ambivalence to confidence, from infidelity and recklessness to acceptance and a deeper understanding of the internal conflicts of his life.

A gifted writer with an unsparing eye, Andrew relishes bizarre encounters with the characters whom he encounters, allowing them to challenge him in unexpected ways. He gets into peculiar, even dangerous situations that put him to the test—with mixed results. Disarmingly likable, Andrew is open, honest, and authentic on every page, and what emerges is an intimate memoir of self-discovery and an unforgettable love song to the woman who would be his wife.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published September 18, 2012

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About the author

Andrew McCarthy

29 books532 followers
Andrew McCarthy is a director, an award winning travel writer, and—of course—an actor. He made his professional début at 19 in Class, and has appeared in dozens of films, including such iconic movies as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Less Then Zero, and cult favorites Weekend At Bernie’s and Mannequin.

He has starred on Broadway and on television, most recently appearing in The Family, on ABC. McCarthy is also a highly regarded television director; having helmed Orange is the New Black, The Blacklist, Grace and Frankie, and many others.

Simultaneously, McCarthy is an award winning travel writer. He is an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler, and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Travel+Leisure, AFAR, Men’s Journal, Bon Appetit, and many others. He has received six Lowell Thomas awards, and been named Travel Journalist of the Year by The Society of American Travel Writers.

His travel memoir, THE LONGEST WAY HOME, became a New York Times Best Seller, and the Financial Times of London named it one of the Best Books of the year. He served as guest editor for the prestigious Best American Travel series in 2015.

His debut novel, JUST FLY AWAY, will be published by Algonquin in the spring of 2017.

McCarthy lives in New York City.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 390 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie.
234 reviews3 followers
November 14, 2012
I bought this book for two reasons, one very realistic, the other very shallow. I'll start with the shallow: I wanted to marry Andrew McCarthy when I was 15 years old. Okay, I got that part over with. The real reason I bought this book is because I discovered a while back that Andrew McCarthy is a travel writer (and Editor at Large) for National Geographic. As someone who dreams of being a world traveler, discovering all of the beauties of the world and learning all the cultures, being a citizen of the world (as Andrew says), I read his travel pieces to hear his take on some of the places I wish to explore someday. What I found is that Andrew is an exceptional storyteller. He describes the places he's been and things he sees with such colorful details. As I read some of his articles, I could almost picture myself there, seeing the things that he was describing. When I learned that he had a book coming out, I immediately ordered my copy so that I could read more of his explorations. You learn immediately from the cover of the book that the focus is not of his travels, but rather what he learns from his travels and the discoveries (both self and cultural) he makes to lead him to the point of marrying his longtime girlfriend. As I read the book, I found some of the same descriptive storytelling from his other travel stories, but I also found that Andrew is not the guy you expect him to be from his acting. He's a guy that prefers to be alone in his explorations and thoughts. I won't give the book away, but I will say that I originally only gave it three stars. And that's because I read it after having read some reviews on Amazon.com. What I took from those was a tone that I used to read the book because many had said that he whined and really just needed to grow up. While I didn't get that from the book, I did assert my own tone that really should not have been there. That said, I still really enjoyed Andrew's story and reading the book. The following weekend, I went to Atlanta with a friend who is both an avid reader and a world traveler. We attended a book festival event where Andrew was interviewed about his book. We found him to be the intelligent and witty guy that we expected him to be all along. While he may enjoy traveling alone, he is very good at charming a crowd. After hearing him discuss his book in person and talk about some of the specific situations that he had written about, I quickly learned that many of the places where I had asserted a bit of sarcastic tone really deserved a humorous tone. After that, I decided that my rating deserved at least four stars, not the original three that I gave it. I really enjoy Andrew's travel articles, I enjoyed his book, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear him speak about his book in person. All of that together made The Longest Way Home a very enjoyable experience as a whole. And, yes, the guy from Pretty In Pink can write. More importantly, he can tell a story.
Profile Image for Ryan Murdock.
Author 5 books37 followers
February 6, 2014
When I read a review of The Longest Way Home in Publisher's Weekly, I immediately went online and ordered it.

This is travel literature as it should be written. McCarthy has a fine eye for the details of place. He captures landscape and people — and those revealing gestures or lines of speech that get to the heart of someone — in precise deliberate prose that’s never loaded down with unnecessary words.

But this is far from just a story about exotic places. Like the best travel writing, it’s deeply personal as well. In fact, this reads more like a memoir.

At the opening of the book, McCarthy finds himself at a major life crossroad. He’s been engaged to his fiancé for the past four years, and they already have a child together. Life has gotten in the way, but they finally set a date for their wedding. And then he panics and books a long string of writing assignments to the farthest places he can think of: Patagonia, the Amazon, the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica and Kilimanjaro.

Running away and pulling back has always come naturally to McCarthy. And in The Longest Way Home he tries to understand why.

In one sense he runs from his current life and responsibilities. But his deepest self seeks distance and solitude in order to journey deeper into himself.

It was his sense of solitude that I related to so strongly in this book.

He writes, “I’ve felt alone for most of my life and never minded. I’ve considered it my natural state. I’ve longed for that solitude, sought it out, and lamented its absence.”

McCarthy is happy with the life he’s created — two children and a fiancé he cares about deeply — and yet he continues to leave.

The tension between those two poles, and the quest to understand what it means, forms the core of his story.

In another passage he writes: “The self-reliance that was born of my lack of camaraderie has created a justification for a solitary way of living that is not useful in partnership. It is what D has most struggled with over the years; ‘I’m right here, I need you to come to me,’ she’s often said. It has taken me a long time to even understand what she means by that.”

As the story progresses, each new place and each new challenge calls up a deeper level of personal understanding. And those poles are finally reconciled — at least for now — in the Dublin wedding scene that closes the book.

McCarthy has come to understand his walls, and the meaning of his solitude. And to reach beyond it.

But it’s that sense of aloneness that stays with me as I close the back cover of the book.

In a passage near the end of the story, McCarthy writes:

“There is a pure, still place in me that remains mine alone. It is that place I first encountered as a child in my front yard, under the stars, it is the place from which I move out into the world, the place from which so much that is good in my life has sprung. Over the years my willful isolation and separation, my urge to flee, my feelings of being misunderstood and ultimately alone in the world, all grew from a desire to shield that solitary place. But what I’ve come to see in the past months of travel is that these battlements I’ve erected ultimately ensure the creation of all they are trying to safeguard against.”

That could just as easily have been written about me.
Profile Image for Julie Bestry.
Author 2 books23 followers
December 9, 2012
I selected this book after hearing McCarthy interviewed on Studio 360 on NPR and learning about his new career in travel writing. I paid more attention to the travel writing than the subtitle, "One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down." When I started reading, I'd felt I'd made a big mistake.

This book is an awkward confessional, with the sometimes strident whines of an introverted curmudgeon. What right does Andrew McCarthy have to be so misanthropic? He's pretty. He's rich. He's famous. He's overcome alcoholism, but so have millions of others. As I read, I found myself waiting for him to be JUST TOO PRETENTIOUS for me to go on reading.

And then something happened. I can't say the book's early travel descriptions of Patagonia and the Amazon endeared me to him; in fact, it's almost like he put the most annoying aspects of himself up front, as if to scare off any readers not worthy of going to distance. But as the book went on, I found myself cheering for him, for his wife and cobbled-together family and to the inevitable conclusion. It's an indie movie starring Andrew McCarthy just waiting to happen.

If you dislike self-doubt and self-indulgence, and confessional writing that tells too little to be explanatory and too much to invent your own meanings, this might be a bit much for you. Had someone else written this, perhaps I'd have forgiven him his testiness. But in the end, I realized I hadn't skipped over a paragraph -- not a word-- and enjoyed myself. The book takes the reader on quite the little journey.

190 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2013
This book was a chore to read.

Andrew McCarthy comes across as self-focused, which I suppose is unavoidable while writing a memoir of solo travel. But still, he's a boor.

We meet McCarthy, in literary form anyway, on his honeymoon for his 2nd marriage which he uses to set the scene for the many months between the decision to marry his now wife and the wedding itself. We find out early on, in large part because he tells us, that he likes to be alone, has a hard time with commitment and obligation, and is afraid to get married.

He is snobbish about many things: food, hotels, reading, music, etc. He is prone to anger and resentment and describes several situations in virtually all of his stories of becoming enraged. Usually irrationally - a big one that stood out to me is having to buy groceries for his fiancé, child, and future in laws in preparation for them to join him in Vienna.

Well that and his decision to spend the months leading up to his wedding away from his family traveling for the writing assignments he does for his travel writing career. That were his idea. Partly so he could mentally prepare himself to marry the mother of one of his children and his girlfriend of I think he said 7 years.

He's also pretty comfortable just spilling whatever he thinks about whomever. I wouldn't want to read some of his thoughts if I was his now wife, father, etc.

So basically, I have learned that Andrew McCarthy and I could not be friends. Which I knew while he was still on his first exotic trip.

But I waded through to the end, even though the deadline for book club came and went (no one finished this book in our club, btw). Couple of reasons. First is the train wreck factor. I like having something to respond to. Second is that his writing is good -- telling about how HE experienced things, NOT as a travelogue. Not in this book anyway -- his narrative flows well for the most part.

Third, as I pressed on, I did start thinking about how my own unedited writing might come across to others. I'm a lot more calm than McCarthy and not nearly as snobby or prone to rage, but I don't have perfect thoughts all the time. And some things that should be "easy" can be scary. So in that sense, he's relatable for me. I applaud that he put himself out there. But I don't want to spend time with him.

So would I recommend this? Not really. He is not likable in this context and his stories tell the same thing over and over again. About him as an individual. I think this book would have been much better of he focused his writing on the destinations and what he saw, learned, and did to share the exotic locale with the reader. His own mental exercises and struggles would have added to the stories. Instead, his focus on himself sucked the life out of what he had to say.
Profile Image for Heather.
36 reviews
May 6, 2013
This is a pretty self-indulgent and repetitive look at McCarthy's journey to finally marrying the mother of one of his children. While there's a good concept here--him running away in search of something and finding that he has what he needs and wants at home--he never actually digs deep enough to make the reader care. He repeats over and over (and over) how he craves solitude, how he has always felt apart from people, how he is embarrassed by his own and other people's shame. But rather than endearing him to the reader, the examples he gives just make him seem like an awkward jerk who leaves his fiancée and kids to travel the world and hopes they'll understand and love him for his quirkiness. Each insight is kind of half-formed, which makes me think he didn't really learn anything, just got lucky in finding the right people to indulge him.
Profile Image for Robin.
1,433 reviews36 followers
September 18, 2012
It would be easy to dismiss this as a self-indulgent travel memoir by a former "brat-packer" actor became an award winning travel writer, but this was surprisingly well done.

I found the travels interesting and his musings of his fear of commitment to be honest (there is much angst about getting hitched again and being a better husband than he was to his first wife).

I highly recommend this to those who liked Nicholas Sparks's THREE WEEKS WITH MY BROTHER and even EAT, PRAY, LOVE, although I liked this better than EPL.
Profile Image for Marc Weitz.
Author 3 books5 followers
October 16, 2012
When I mentioned to a friend at tennis, that I was reading Andrew McCarthy’s book I got a long look of “you’re kidding me.” I asked myself the same question when, after seeing a travel article written by Andrew McCarthy in the New York Times, I suddenly bought and downloaded his new book. When I saw the article in the Times and saw that the author was Andrew McCarthy, I was sure it couldn’t be the actor. But, man, this guy can write. His style is clearly patterned after Hemingway’s with short, concise sentences. Indeed, Hemingway is mentioned a number of times in the book.

The book is about how travel transformed McCarthy’s life. He recounts years of acting, failed relationships, and alcohol abuse. In this he realized the emptiness of it all. He is a loner who desperately wants to be social and build lasting relationships, but while he yearns for this, he runs from it whenever he gets close. It was one day hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain that he realized the importance of travel in his life. He had nearly given up but knew that he had to complete the trail or he’d never fulfill any commitments. From then on he sets himself on a career as a travel writer. He approaches one of the editors from National Geographic seeking a job. Skeptical at first, he gave McCarthy a chance. Since then, he’s been traveling the world.

The book is a series of travel tales interwoven with his 7-year relationship with his fiancé known as D. His logical side knows that D is the right woman for him, but his fears are preventing him from taking the leap and marrying her. With each destination described in the book, he grows more comfortable and surer of his decision.

McCarthy does a fantastic job describing the places he visits: Patagonia, the Amazon, the Osa, Vienna, Baltimore, and Kilimanjaro. Like any good travelogue, it’ll make you hungry to travel and think of nothing else the entire day.

One thing struck me after reading this: I’ve now read a few books about the stars whom I grew up watching and listening to as a child in the 80’s, and I continue to learn so much from them. Andrew McCarthy as Blaine in Pretty in Pink or Kevin in St. Elmo’s Fire informed so much of my childhood and adolescence. Now as an adult I continue to learn from his art and now him personally.
227 reviews6 followers
December 4, 2012
I was surprised to find out Andrew McCarthy was a travel writer. After reading 100 pages of this book I am shocked he is a travel writer. I love reading about people traveling to far away places and seeing amazing things. So while the author travels to cool places the way he writes gave it no life for me and I found myself skipping through the pages hoping to get to something interesting. As for his relationship with D, there was nothing in it to make me root for them. At 100 pages what I know about D through his eyes is: she doesn't like living in NY and complains about it often, she enjoys to socialize and doesn't understand why he doesn't causing a point of constant friction, and he has given up trying to understand her train of thought when she sees signs in things because it is not rational. The relationship was so volatile that his son from a previous marriage didn't want to visit. Seriously, everytime he spoke of D, I felt like he was rolling his eyes at her.
Profile Image for Florinda.
318 reviews133 followers
November 14, 2012
I like to travel, but wouldn’t say I have a strong sense of adventure--there are many places I have no desire to visit and activities I don’t personally wish to do. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still curious, and for that reason, travel writing appeals to me. Since most of my travels these days involve a forty-mile stretch comprised of the four Los Angeles freeways between my home and workplace, audiobooks are a great way to pretend I’m somewhere else. I recently spent a week in several locales, some exotic--Patagonia, the Amazon, Costa Rica, Mount Kilimanjaro--and some less so--New York, Baltimore, Vienna, Dublin--with Andrew McCarthy as my tour guide. Our travels also took me deep into McCarthy’s psyche as he inched toward that “triumph of hope over experience” event: marrying for the second time.

If the author’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s “THAT Andrew McCarthy”--yeah, the one from the 80s (Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, etc.). He still acts, and sometimes he directs, but he’s also developed a career as an award-winning travel writer and editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, where several of the pieces in his first book, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, originated.

In many respects, McCarthy was already pretty “settled down.” He had two children and had been with his daughter’s mother for seven years; they’d been engaged for four of them. But when they finally began talking about wedding plans, he grew anxious and conflicted. He needed to figure out why--he hoped it wasn’t stereotypical male commitment-phobia--and as much as he loved his family, he needed to go off on his own to work through it.

It wasn’t long before the reason for McCarthy’s preference for solo travel seemed pretty clear to me: despite the fact that he’s made a living as an actor, a profession that seems to require extraversion, the guy’s a fellow introvert. While the book’s subtitle suggests he was searching for “the courage to settle down,” I think he was also seeking how to balance being a fully-invested partner and parent with preserving his core self--not an unusual challenge for anyone in a committed relationship, really. I never actually questioned McCarthy’s commitment to his fiancée or his children, and I'm not sure truly he did either. I think the struggle was more about intimacy and boundaries, combined with the concern of the once-divorced person not to end up a twice-divorced person. I was pretty sympathetic.

The book itself seems to reflect some of those intimacy-and-boundaries struggles. It’s not a fully-encompassing autobiography; McCarthy’s pretty sparing with backstory, and will definitely not satisfy your curiosity about his 1980s Brat Pack heyday. He’s remarkably introspective and intimate with the reader in some places while keeping a distance in others, most notably in not referring to his children by name and identifying his future wife--spoiler: he DOES find that courage--only as “D” throughout the book. That reserve keeps The Longest Way Home from fully satisfying as personal memoir, although I think it may connect better in audio format; I’m glad that’s how I read it. But the book also provides an introduction to McCarthy’s travel writing; I found that thoroughly engaging, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps collecting awards for his work in that field.
Profile Image for Sara.
5 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2013
Like most 80s fans, I've always had a particular soft spot for Andrew McCarthy. He's been fairly absent from the screen in recent years and I was pleasantly surprised to find he'd become something of a travel writer in the interim. Travel writing with a side of self-discovery isn't my favourite kind of writing but I was intrigued by this book. Furthermore one of my colleagues told me that he'd worked with McCarthy on this (in a publicity capacity) and that McCarthy was pretty much exactly as he seemed in his most iconic roles (Pretty in Pink, Class, St Elmo's Fire, I'm assuming not Weekend at Bernies), if not more so - in other words, he WAS still waters run deep. Swoon.

So I treated myself for Christmas. The book itself is an easy, enjoyable read, weaving exotic destinations like Patagonia and Kilimanjaro with McCarthy's concerns about getting married for the second time and reflections on family life. It's been described as a male EAT, PRAY, LOVE but don't worry, it's far less grating than that. It didn't change my life or anything but I enjoyed the feeling of getting to know McCarthy better - he really opens up, and he has an eloquent way of doing so.

My one complaint is that he says very little about working on Pretty in Pink - but he does include a picture in the plate section.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
October 8, 2012
I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I was first drawn to Andrew McCarthy's new book because he starred in two of my favorite 80s movies, St. Elmo's Fire and Pretty in Pink. The truth is, however, about a year or so ago I read an article he wrote on Ireland for Bon Appetit magazine, and I remembered being impressed with his writing ability.

While I may have come to McCarthy's book partially because of my nostalgia for most 80s-related things, it was his writing ability, and his insights into the appeal of travel and why he is more comfortable being alone—even while surrounded by strangers—that made me keep reading. But don't be taken in by the quote from Elizabeth Gilbert on the book's cover—while McCarthy meditates on love and relationships, and does eat throughout the book, this is no male version of Eat, Pray, Love.

McCarthy is unable to commit to his fiancée of nearly four years, and doesn't quite understand why. He recounts always being a somewhat ambivalent person; while he initially fell in love with acting in high school and felt truly alive onstage, he never really imagined himself a successful actor, and once his career started taking off, he found himself at odds with this success. (It's interesting to find out the characteristics that most intrigued me about McCarthy's acting—his ambivalence, his vulnerability, his shyness—were actually real-life personality traits, not dimensions of his characters.) At one point he recounts that he saw acting as a terrific way to meet women, travel, and drink to excess.

At a crossroads in his life, and at risk of jeopardizing his future by alienating the woman he loves, he sets out to try and find the answer to what causes his fear of commitment, of showing his true self to people. He begins traveling to places both exotic and remote—the glaciers of Patagonia, the rainforests of Costa Rica, the heart of Amazonian country, Mt. Kilimanjaro, even one of his best friend's childhood hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.

As he travels, McCarthy recounts what events in his life shaped him to be the type of person he is, how his somewhat strained relationship with his father has affected the way he parents his children, how his fear of failing after one divorce has impacted his relationship with his fiancée, and he realizes how much he needs what he desires most—a loving wife and family. This book is part travelogue, as he shares risky adventures, breathtaking sights, and encounters both enriching and bizarre with the people he meets along his journey, and part memoir of self-discovery.

McCarthy says, "In life there are dividing lines. These moments become a way to chart our time; they are the signposts for our lives." That quote is a fairly accurate description of The Longest Way Home. Andrew McCarthy is a writer with great talent, one who truly made the anecdotes of his travels come alive, and his use of imagery really evoked pictures in my mind. But at times, McCarthy's ambivalence, his reticence to disclose his feelings, even to the woman he loves, was a little frustrating. You almost want to shake him from time to time, to warn him he needs to find his answers quickly or his whole life could fall apart. That melodrama aside, this is an insightful, enjoyable book that makes you see travel, and why people do it, in a very different way.
Profile Image for Greg Baerg.
3 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2014
I didn't know that Andrew McCarthy was a travel writer until a friend read a feature he wrote about an unconventional stay in Paris. She recommended the book to me and I am grateful.

As the title suggests, it is more than a travel book -- indeed, it isn't a travel book, at all. It is a heartwarming story about a man coming to grips with who he has been and who is becoming, and the journey that got him there (and which continues).

At this point of my life, it spoke to me, and I found myself highlighting passages and really wanting to know how his story unfolded, rather than ended. There is more, of course, that means more to me than probably most, like how he is a divorced man with a young son, figuring out how that dynamic works in a new relationship. It was hopeful.

And as an aside, I read the Kindle edition and was pleasantly surprised that all the photos (and there weren't that many, really) were at the end. While they were brief and not "travel" photos in the least, I appreciated being able to use his rather vivid and unique descriptions to visualize each stop, rather than have a photo paint the picture for me.

I am thankful to my friend for the recommendation and can't wait to discuss this book with her, once her journey brings us together again.
Profile Image for Elida.
56 reviews
June 4, 2013
Andrew McCarthy has transformed himself from Brat Pack actor to travel writer. His work has received some high honors. I was aware of his work in National Geographic Traveller, so I picked up this book. And I was disappointed. He writes more of his own neurotic journey to adulthood and commitment than he does of actual travel. In this book, he travels to escape his responsibilities and his ennui. And he travels to boring rat-trap towns. I had no desire to visit Patagonia or Costa Rica when he was finished. His descriptive writing is bland. And the book ends in Dublin, a place fraught with meaning for him, with his wedding, and I have no sense of place there, either. Likewise with his journey to the Amazon. His writing about a family trip to Vienna was much more vivid, which is ironic, since McCarthy constantly extols the virtues of traveling alone and how much he prefers it. In the end, this book is about travel in the mind and heart and is more autobiography than travel writing. One final though ... McCarthy comes off as crabby as Paul Theroux does in his new book. This is the ultimate irony as McCarthy greatly admires Theroux's work. Problem is that I'm not sure McCarthy has traveled enough or experienced enough to emulate that part of Theroux's writing!
Profile Image for Will White.
264 reviews6 followers
April 25, 2015
More like 3.5 stars
This book is hard to nail down. There are travel sections that make me want to visit the place the next day. There are deep insightful sections that make me want to write down each word of wisdom to read everyday. There are pages about family that make me want to put the book down and go hug my wife and kids. There are a few sections about McCarthy’s life as a member of the 1980’s Brat Pack. There are sections that bored the heck out of me. However, the others far outweigh the slow parts. McCarthy, as an author, is a great surprise. I almost put the book down at one point, but I’m so glad to have finished it. I recommend it anyone who likes to travel but has frequently asked the question why. I also recommend it to parents who grew up during the 80’s. You’ll like knowing the real Andrew McCarthy.
Profile Image for Debra B.
719 reviews14 followers
July 26, 2020
2 1/2 stars

I was a little disappointed with this book as I was eager to learn what Andrew McCarthy did with his life following his life in Hollywood. The book is really an introspective look at his withdrawal from life and the use of travel as a means to try to understand himself and deal with his problems.

I think my greatest frustration was the description of his second wedding. Weeks before his Irish wedding, he takes off on travel assignments to Patagonia and the Amazon, arriving just days before leaving for Ireland. Planning is clearly not one of his strengths, preferring a seat-of-the-pants approach to life and travel. To be fair, the craziness of planning deficiencies was shared equally by both he and his wife!
Profile Image for Terric853.
641 reviews3 followers
December 1, 2012
I read this because it was my book club's selection. I enjoyed the travel pieces. The "Do I want to marry the woman I've been living with - and have a daughter by?" - parts set my teeth on edge. I wanted to slap some sense into this self-indulgent idiot. What difference does a marriage license make when you have a kid and have been together that long? What will change if you make it legal? Yet, he drags his feet and runs off to Patagonia, the Amazon and other exotic locales while trying to convince himself to commit. Once he finally decides he CAN get married, nothing will stand in his way, including his son's broken arm.
85 reviews
November 8, 2018
It should had been called "The longest description of a wedding". Borring. Incredibly borring.
Profile Image for Anna Janelle.
155 reviews35 followers
September 8, 2012
My previous status updates seem to encompass many of the gut-reactions that I've had to this book. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how well Andrew McCarthy can spin a tale. He's a wonderfully gifted writer who possesses the ability to really draw the reader in to reassess and re-evaluate what it means to become an adult member of a committed relationship. While McCarthy was primarily known as an celebrated "Brat Pack" actor in the 1980s, he is now a celebrated travel author, acting as editor-at-large for the National Geographic Traveler. While this book was advertised as a travel memoir, it became, for me, most importantly, a memoir discussing McCarthy's fears and inhibitions regarding his second marriage. His gift with dialogue shone through when illuminating his often complicated love-affair with his fiance/wife D. I found myself most emotionally connected to his memories centering around his unresolved issues with his family - in particular, his father. I found McCarthy to be most profound and moving when illustrating his family dynamic - as opposed to discussing the exotic scenery of an exotic locale. The travel narrative serves a purpose in that it prompts McCarthy's inner dialogue and self-revelation. As a reader new to the travel genre, this was a perfect manner in which to get my feet wet while combining the narrative with memoir or autobiography, a genre which I am most familiar.

I want to thank both author Andrew McCarthy (*squee* I can't believe I have an occasion to write that phrase; I've been watching him in Pretty in Pink for decades) and publishers Free Press for this opportunity to read this GoodRead's First Reads book. I would definitely recommend it to other fans of the actor - as well as fans of the memoir/autobiography/travel genres. It's a very personal encounter with issues and questions that plague us all as we transition from youth into adulthood. As a person currently struggling to plan a wedding (like McCarthy and his betrothed D., I'm not a detail-oriented planner and am having difficulty wrapping my head around all the details that surround a wedding philosophical and logistical), this book took on a special relevance for me. It was a quick, relatively short read that I thoroughly enjoyed.


Who would have thought this cutie would have grown up to be a man with such insight into affection and self-knowledge? Respectfully, I was very surprised at the quality and emotional-impact of his insight. A very welcome surprise indeed :)
Profile Image for Gatamadrizgmail.com.
64 reviews7 followers
October 31, 2012
This splendidly written book by travel writer/actor Andrew McCarthy takes you through a 7 month journey in which the author is trying to figure out what his problem is with truly committing to the woman he has vowed to marry. He has been with D for seven years, they have a daughter and everything should be fine, right? But the minute they decide to get married he is off and running.

Painfully shy and a bit socially inept, he is honest that he uses travel to avoid getting to know people. But travel also gives him the opportunity to take a real look at himself. So this book balances between an intimate look at where this man is at, and a tautly written, imaginative travelogue.

He travels to Argentina and walks the glaciers, to Costa Rica, boats down the Amazon and eventually climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro. "Where are you?" his fiancee keeps asking. But the reader gets it. You really feel for him, for his incredibly patient wife. You laugh at the foibles of travel, and especially traveling with kids.

The descriptions of the places are spectacular - I found myself googling images of Calafate in Argentina, for example and immediately wanted to go there. Memories of his living in Vienna and Dublin, his times as the Movie Star are woven into his journeys. Mr. McCarthy is an award-winning travel writer, and it shows in the imagery.

When he finally comes to the realization that he does not need this crutch anymore, that he wants to be back in New York with his wife and children, (he is on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro) you want to cheer. The final scene of him dancing wildly at his wedding, free of his self-doubts, enjoying himself with people for the first time in his life is moving and wonderful. I cannot say enough about this book.
Profile Image for Arcelia.
107 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2013
So this one took a while to figure out what I was going to rate it. I honestly believe I liked him more before I read his book. I didn't like hearing about how unsure he was on whether he wanted to marry his partner and mother of his child. He honestly came off as a selfish commitment-phobe and didn't paint his fiancee in the best possible light. I read through it wondering, why are they still together? because they have a child? he's leaving all the planning to her while he runs off and travels "on assignment". The book at least offered insight into his personality and asked many questions that we all go through. it was nice to learn about his second career as a travel writer. Don't read this book expecting to learn about his background in acting or that part of his life. This is strictly focused on his travel writing career.
Profile Image for Beth Schneider McEwen.
234 reviews4 followers
December 3, 2012
I'm not a huge fan of memoirs typically, but when it involves travel and fear of commitment, two themes particularly near & dear to me, I'm interested. After listening to McCarthy speak on NPR, I was definitely hooked. I had seen his byline in several Nat'l Geographic articles, but had never put it together with the Andrew McCarthy of '80s movie fame. I'm just going to say that his writing skills completely overtake his acting skills. The way that he wove his personal story in with the landscape and people of the various locations he visited was thoroughly entertaining. I'd highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Thomas DeWolf.
Author 5 books52 followers
February 28, 2022
Such a fascinating book... having watched Andrew McCarthy's early films in the 1980's, I admit I lost track of him as other interests came along. Then I read where he'd walked the Camino and this book was his stories of his travels, and... wham! I'm reconnected with Andrew McCarthy. As I read this memoir I found so much that we share in common regarding travel... and, of course, many things we don't share. That's the human journey, right? Connecting, letting go, reconnecting, or not, finding people who inspire us. So... time to book my next trip sometime soon, I believe...
Profile Image for Jane Sinclair.
17 reviews
September 16, 2019
I’m half way through this book. It’s one man’s description of some remote locations he’s visiting as a journalist. Interesting sites & people.
Profile Image for Michael Smith.
312 reviews15 followers
January 15, 2021
There’s a beautiful narrative woven throughout this book, and beyond McCarthy’s thin layer of privilege is a vulnerable, honest man seeking ways to calm his restlessness.
344 reviews6 followers
May 3, 2021
The author really comes across as immature, selfish and unlikeable ... how his marriage survived her reading the book, is beyond me.
Profile Image for Lyle.
102 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2021
Page 47
Maybe it was the drive, or the fact that there is no one hanging around town, but I feel unsettled, and anxious. I eat with my back to the wall at a corner table in an empty restaurant and realise that I’m lonely. It’s something I rarely feel, but when I do, I usually experience it as a pleasant sensation. Only occasionally does loneliness sadden me, or fill me with anxiety, and when it does, it takes me by surprise and leaves me feeling adrift, as if I have misplaced myself somehow.

Page 56
At the Catherine River, a three-foot salmon is facing upstream, making no progress, only the tip of its tail, barely swaying back and forth, helping it hold ground. I cross the wooden bridge to the other bank and watch. Exhausted and dying, trying to return home to spawn, the fish will make it no farther upstream; its journey will end. How long has it swum to return to its birthplace, how many hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, to get this near to its goal and no closer?

Page 59
Places where I felt received by the land, where my perception of the world and of my place in it fell into sync. I recognize that sense of belonging instantly. That I didn’t feel that connection in my boyhood home in suburban New Jersey is no one’s fault, and that I’ve travelled enough to have found it on several occasions has been one of the biggest revelations in my life.

Page 80

My initial reaction to nearly every social situation is to shy away. That in the end I often come out of such encounters energized and excited is something I’ve been slow to acknowledge. What stays with me is that I often stumble away anxious and fatigued, my internal monologue running parallel to each outward discussion. Add to this my acute barometer for shame - both my own and the one I perceive in others: when I see people behaving in ways that betray insecurity, masked with bravado, I feel embarrassed for them. I’m always shocked they don’t. I judge them, harshly, and run for the exit.

Page 130
Then, as the rain falls, I realise it’s not Holly’s beauty that attracts me to her – although it does – it is her complete inhabitation of her life. She has the confidence of a person who knows what she wants, has the courage to make the choices to reach for it, and has to satisfaction of her achievement. When she turns to me and smiles, I can only smile back.

Page 222
Someone unfamiliar with the disinterested ways of nature had made an Ill-informed, youthful decision.

Page 257
I tousle his hair and we sit in silence. There is a pure, still place in me that remains mine alone. It is that place I first encountered as a child in my front yard, under the stars, it is the place from which I move out into the world, the place from which so much that is good in my life has sprung. Over the years my willful isolation and separation, my urge to flee, my feelings of being misunderstood and ultimately alone in the world, all grew from a desire to shield that solitary place. But what I’ve come to see in the past months of travel is that these battlements I've erected ultimately ensure the creation of all they are trying to safeguard against. The revelation of my journey
ing is that so many of my defenses, so many of the protective choices I have lived by, behavior that has dictated so many of my actions and created much of my persona in the world, are both unnecessary and counter-productive. The realisation is at once liberating and already deeply familiar.
Profile Image for Ti.
787 reviews
September 25, 2012
The Short of It:

One man’s attempt to figure it all out. Except, this guy was an 80′s heartthrob which makes it all the more interesting.

The Rest of It:

Everyone remembers Andrew McCarthy, right? THE 80′s heartthrob we all got to know from such movies as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire and one of the silliest, yet most entertaining movies ever…Mannequin.

I’ve always like his work. He has an easy way about him and a likable face. What I didn’t know, is that in addition to acting and directing, he’s also added travel writer to his list of accomplishments. As an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler, You’d think I would have noticed his writing since I’ve read the magazine for years, but maybe I just didn’t realize it was the same guy. Needless to say, when this book came up for review, I jumped at the chance to read it.

McCarthy’s inability to commit to his long time partner, known as “D” in the book is what sends him into a tailspin. The wedding date has been set, but the details as far as when & where cause him anxiety that can only be controlled by hitting the road. So, that is what he does. He climbs Kilimanjaro, spends some time in Costa Rica, Patagonia and Spain and all the while, D is waiting at home, touching base with him when she can.

As much as I adore McCarthy, I was frustrated with his tendency to flee every time decisions needed to be made. It’s a classic case of cold feet but the book promises a “quest” and to me, that means that at some point, you put the hiking boots away and come back as a complete person. I’m not sure that happened here. He does a lot of soul-searching, but I don’t feel that he understood himself any better at the end of this adventure, than he did at the beginning.

As for the adventure, McCarthy is kind of a loner so there aren’t too many meaningful interactions with the people he encounters. It’s mostly him, and what he was thinking at the time. The armchair traveler in me wanted more description, more humor and some meaningful moments so when those were few and far between, I’d gaze at the cover and then watch Pretty in Pink.

As a Brat Pack fan, my favorite parts of the book had to do with his movie career and how he came to play such iconic roles. These parts are interspersed throughout the book and then of course he touches on alcoholism and how it nearly got the best of him. Even here though, he only skims the surface.

Overall, I’d have to say that if his intent was to dig deep, he wasn’t successful. He only took things so far, and then just sort of gave in to them. BUT, for some reason, I still enjoyed the book. It was refreshing for a man to discuss his weakness and I appreciated the honesty in his writing.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter.
Profile Image for Vera Marie.
Author 2 books17 followers
January 9, 2013
This travel memoir surprised me. That’s a good thing. The Longest Way Home started out with three strikes again it:

Andrew McCarthy was a movie star (St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink and lots of other sensitive young man roles in the 1980′s and 90′s) before he wrote about travel. I generally do not like books by celebrities since publishers buy them for the author’s name instead of the content.

The subtitle tipped me off that this is one of those “all about me” books disguised as travel.

I’m supposed to be sympathetic with a famous wealthy person, who publishes in national magazines and has won two Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism. His biggest problem is marrying a woman he loves–the mother of his children–the woman whom he has been living with for seven years. Really?

It took me a while to get into The Longest Way Home, maybe because the first couple of chapters are more “me story” than “travel story.” Once McCarthy gets his foot in the door at National Geographic Traveler And the NGT assignments lead to other national magazines.

Once he gets to Patagonia and describes incidents and people–-I started to find the book enjoyable. Here is an excerpt from a really wonderful paragraph describing a ride across an Argentine lake and his feelings about it:

The metamorphic rock glistens. The boat passes a small blue iceberg–an orphan from the Upsala Glacier. It feels too warm for snow, yet snow begins to fall A rainbow forms on my right: an austral thrush darts past, just above the whitecapping glacier milk… the wind ripping across my face, the spray from the lake biting my skin, and the rapidly changing light are so exhilarating that it’s difficult to breathe. I’m aware of storing the moment away, like an emergency supply of food.

Andrew McCarthy’s enthusiasm for places is contagious. I love the way he reveals his awe and vulnerability instead of presenting a cool, sophisticated demeanor.

Although he has not convinced me to love the soul-searching branch of travel memoir in general, and I could have done with less of existential angst and more of the travel stories, The Longest Way Home is well worth the read.

This is taken from a review I wrote at A Travler's Library. Read more.
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