'Let's Take the Long Way Home'
Author: Gail Caldwell
Published: Random House; Aug. 2010
Source: TLC Book Tours
Synopsis: 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.
My Take: Struggling with loss is never easy. It's different for everyone and no matter what, from my experience, you usually feel alone. After you've reached a certain age you will inevitably have lost a grandparent, parent, or friend to something. Caldwell lost her best friend, Caroline, to lung cancer and this book is her tribute to her friend. If you've lost someone close to you and had to deal with the life that comes afterwards then you will find plenty of comfort and head-nodding in agreement within this sparsely paged memoir.
The book begins with Caldwell standing by the lake in which she and her dear friend use to always take their dogs on walks together. Only her friend isn't there beside her anymore because she has passed on. At first, we don't know what happened, but slowly through stories, memories, glimpses through past lives we become intimate with the friendship that these two shared. Having met later in life, these two found a sisterly love that they hadn't found in anyone else. It was sweet to read about. I liked knowing that you could build a deep bond with someone other than those you've known since childhood. They did everything together.
Caldwell and Caroline initially bonded over their new dogs. If you are a dog lover than you would have wanted to be friends with these two women. Their passion for their dogs is insurmountable. The walks they took every day with their dogs is how they would talk out their feelings. Then they began to row and swim together, which led to vacations and a years-long friendship. Until, sadly, Caroline became sick.
I don't cry a lot in books, but the passages in which Caldwell was saying goodbye to her dear friend were heart-wrenching. This isn't a book for the faint of heart. Don't get me wrong, it's not gruesome or anything. It's just real life. And sometimes, real life is utterly sad.
While this memoir was incredibly moving there were times when the storyline was paced a little wrong for me. The timeline wasn't linear and I was confused as to why certain stories were being told at certain times. However, I would still wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has lost someone dear in their lives.
This book is out now in paperback, so be sure to grab yourself a copy!
Cover Lust: While simple, this cover is a little lackluster to me. I think that the cover on the paperback version tells a story closer to what is inside.
The publisher has kindly offered up one new paperback copy to a lucky winner! The deadline for this giveaway is Sep. 6th; entries open to those in the US and Canada.
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For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule.