Rebecca'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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really liked it
bookshelves: addiction, bereavement-memoirs, dogs

If you loved Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, pick this up immediately. It’s a similar story of best friends: one who dies and one who survives. Caldwell’s best friend was Caroline Knapp (author of Drinking: A Love Story, among other nonfiction works), whom she met via puppy ownership in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They were both single and childless, full-time authors with a history of alcoholism. A “gregarious hermit,” Caldwell writes that she “wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone,” and Caroline offered a perfect mixture of respect for her solitude and gentle nudging to get out and face the world:
Caroline knocked on the front door of my inner space, waited, then knocked again. She was persistent, she seemed smart and warmhearted … She seemed like someone for whom I wouldn’t mind breaking my monkish ways.

They took long walks with their dogs and went swimming and rowing together, keeping up an ongoing conversation “about whether we were living our lives correctly … that ranged from the serious (writing, solitude, loneliness) to the mundane (wasted time, the idiocies of urban life, trash TV).” In 2002 Caroline, a devoted smoker, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, an inoperable type that had already metastasized. Despite all their proactive optimism, she was dead a matter of weeks later.

In this moving and accessible short memoir, Caldwell drifts through her past, their friendship, Caroline’s illness, and the years of grief that followed her loss of Caroline and then her beloved Samoyed, Clementine. She also shares what she has learned about bereavement:
Maybe this is the point: to embrace the core sadness of life without toppling headlong into it, or assuming it will define your days. The real trick is to let life, with all its ordinary missteps and regrets, be consistently more mysterious and alluring that its end.

I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.

Highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

July 29, 2013 – Shelved
July 29, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
August 10, 2017 – Started Reading
August 10, 2017 – Shelved as: addiction
August 10, 2017 – Shelved as: bereavement-memoirs
August 10, 2017 – Shelved as: dogs
August 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Margitte (new)

Margitte Sounds like a beautiful book, Rebecca. Great review.

Rebecca Thanks, Margitte! I really enjoyed it.

Cheri Wonderful review, Rebecca! I'm so glad you loved this, too, such a lovely memoir!

Rebecca Have you read the 'sequel'? It's equally good.

Colleen Chi-Girl I’ve read three of your reviews. So well written and thoughtful.

Rebecca Colleen wrote: "I’ve read three of your reviews. So well written and thoughtful."

Thank you, Colleen. What a lovely comment to find on a not-great day.

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