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Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir…

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship (2010)

by Gail Caldwell

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A gorgeous memoir. Rarely do you see friendship taken seriously as a subject worthy of literary exploration. This book is also a great example of how you don't need a dramatic experience to make a good story. Caldwell begins by spilling the beans: "It's an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too." We don't turn the pages to find out what happened; we turn the pages to experience fully what happened, and to learn what Caldwell makes of it. This memoir is also a beautiful example of the power of the reflective voice to carry a narrative. "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 than its end." ( )
  ElizabethAndrew | May 13, 2013 |
I'm having a hard time framing a coherent review of this book. It's the story of a friendship that was intense and huge and that ended in death. I read, long ago, a memoir written by Knapp, who is the friend eulogized and remembered and celebrated herein. I recall liking that book a lot.

This one, though, was really hard. See, I had a friend with whom I was very close for a very long time, and then I moved across the country and though we always *said* we were going to live together when we were old, sometimes whole weeks would pass where we didn't talk. Then she got sick and in what seemed like a blinding rush, died. I was 3000 miles away and I should have been right there with her. So, yeah, reading this, which includes Caldwell being at Knapp's bedside during her sickness and death, was difficult.

The book is exceedingly well-written, grueling, evocative and ultimately kind of wise. Recommended. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
A story of love and friendship and what it means after having to watch a best friend die. ( )
  mawls | Apr 4, 2013 |
I'm glad I read this book, and a lot of it was lovely, but in my personal opinion Caldwell took on this subject too soon. What's most compelling in these pages is what is unsaid. The space around the details about Caldwell and Knapp's friendship, of which there is an abundance, is what allows the reader to imagine herself and her own relationships fitting in and around this narrative. It's what gives the book its power, this invitation to substitute in one's own life.

But I was constantly struck with the feeling that Caldwell was holding back. She didn't want to expose or exploit her friend; she didn't want to give away too many of the memories that are so precious to her. I respect that, but I felt kept at arm's length from what was supposed to be the heart of the memoir. In contrast, Caldwell writes much more boldly and openly about her battle with alcoholism, perhaps because it was hers alone, perhaps because its pain is not as fresh. Even her relationship with Clemmentine felt more fully explored.

I don't mean to criticize Caldwell; I can't imagine trying to process the death of my best friend in a way that would satisfy thousands of perfect strangers. And I'm very glad that Caldwell offers up a vision of female friendship so much more interesting and nuanced than the hair-braiding, ice-cream eating, man-hating cliches we're so often shown. I just wanted more. ( )
  KatieANYC | Apr 2, 2013 |
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The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. - George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life
for Caroline
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It's an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.
Everyone was getting a crash course in irony, the lesson that the grievous and the mundane exist in parallel spheres.
...I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity. I would move as though I were underwater for weeks, maybe months...
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In this gorgeous, moving memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Caldwell reflects on her own coming-of-age in midlife, as she learns to open herself to the power and healing of sharing her life with a best friend.

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