Roxann'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 29, 2010

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Read in September, 2010

If I could give this an additional fractional star I would. Maybe 3.5 or 3.75. It has one of the best first lines I've ever read: "It's an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too." I was hooked, and that's what I wanted to read about: the memoir of friendship, and unbearable loss. That's all in there and is so good. But I was distracted by the long, long story of the author's struggle with, and recovery from alcoholism which had happened years and years before the friendship and seemed such a detour from the theme of the book. Is it just a coincidence that Caroline Knapp (best friend - deceased - of the book) was a recovered alcoholic and had written a well-received memoir of her struggle? I get it that this is something they had in common, that perhaps it brought them closer, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the lengthy diversion was some kind of writing competition with her dead friend. "Let's see who can write the best AA memoir?" I just wanted to hurry through that part to get to the REAL story. All that aside, the book is, in the end, a touching and lucid narrative of an amazing friendship and then of insufferable grief and loss. I thought it was beautifully written; not particularly raw - not difficult to read in that way - but never overly romanticized or euphemistic either. And it's the story of Gail Caldwell, the author, going on with her life with a hole rent through it. The last part deserves 4 stars.
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04/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4)

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Diane Miller i completely agree about the detour on alcoholism. in fact i thought there was an unappealing macho character to recounting the volume of alcohol consumed. however, i gave it a 5 stars because the story of the friendship and the relationship to their dogs was so outstanding that it will likely be the most memorable book of the year for me.
the writing style reflected the light strong movements of their boats on the water. and then there's the title - how often have i used those same words to keep the intimacy just a few moments longer.

message 3: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I felt exactly the way you did about the alcoholism detour, and also had the cynical thought that perhaps this was some kind of weird competition with her deceased friend. I lacked your persistence and just put the book aside. Since you say it redeems itself later, maybe I'll revisit it at some point.

message 2: by AP (new) - rated it 4 stars

AP I did not feel this way at all (not to mean others cannot of course). I felt the author's discussion of her own journey through alcoholism to be integral to our understanding of who she was. It definitely contributed to my understanding of Caldwell, and made me appreciate what companionship and friendship meant to the two women.

Tabitha Blankenbiller I agreed; I actually felt that a good chunk of the book's first half could have been cut and either revised or the last half reformatted into a longer essay-length piece versus a whole book.

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