LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME by Gail Caldwell

Book Quote:

“It’s taken me years to understand that dying doesn’t end the story; it transforms it. Edits, rewrites, the blur and epiphany of one-way dialogue. Most of us wander in and out of another’s lives until not death, but distance, does us part – time and space and the heart’s weariness are the blander executions of the human connection.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  AUG 24, 2011)

Let’s Take The Long Way Home is, at its core, a love story. It’s a story of how a close connection with a friend can ground us and provide us with a life worth living. And it’s a story that any woman who has ever had a friend who is like a sister – I count myself among those fortunate women – will understand in a heartbeat.

Gail Caldwell, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, met Caroline Knapp, also a writer, over their mutual love of their dogs. Ms. Caldwell writes, “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 women – about a decade apart in age – are passionate about writing and their dogs and have successfully dealt with alcohol addiction that knocked them to their knees. “We had a lot of dreams, some of them silly, all part of the private code shared by people who plan to be around for the luxuries of time,” Ms. Caldwell shares.

Quickly, Gail and Caroline and their two dogs become a “pack of four.” They are both self-described moody introverts who prefer the company of dogs. Yet, “…we gave each other wide berth – it was far easier, we learned over the years, to be kind to the other than to ourselves.” As they grow closer, Gail and Caroline learn that nurturance and strength “were each the lesser without the other.”

It is almost inconceivable that this close friendship would ever end, but Caroline is a smoker and at 42, she learns she has stage 4 lung cancer. Her death comes quickly, in a matter of weeks. Gail Caldwell reflects, “Death is a divorce nobody asked for; to live through it is to find a way to disengage form what you thought you couldn’t stand to lose.” And later: “Caroline’s death had left me with a great and terrible gift: how to live in a world where loss, some of it unbearable, is as common as dust or moonlight.” Eventually, she comes to realize “…we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

This memoir is poignant, authentic, unflinching, and genuine – never manipulative or sudsy. In addition to the profound look at an extraordinary friendship, it also focuses on “inter-species” love – between two fiercely private and self-reliant woman and their incredible dogs. The rich and moving portrayal of Gail Caldwell’s Samoyed, Clementine, will be entirely familiar to those of us who have shared our lives with four-legged “fur babies;” love in any guise is still love.

This eloquent book ends up being a celebration of life in all its complexities – including love, friendship, devotion, and grief. As Gail Caldwell writes, “The real trick is to let life, with all its ordinary missteps and regrets, be consistently more mysterious and alluring than its end.”

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 87 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 9, 2011)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Interview with Gail Caldwell
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Bibliography:

By Gail Caldwell:

By her friend Caroline Knapp:


August 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, Reading Guide, y Award Winning Author

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