She told met later that she had been walking around that day exhausted, half undone by the exposure she was getting, and that talking to me had been a balm--I was more interested in her dog than in her book sales. So was she: We were like new moms in the park, trading vital bits of information about our charges that was enthralling only to us. I mentioned a two-thousand-acre wooded reserve north of the city called Middlesex Fells, where I was training my headstrong sled dog to run off-lead, and Caroline asked how to get there. Because the route was complicated, I explained it self-consciously, afraid that she was being polite and I was being long-winded. The place was half an hour away, tough to find even without traffic, and only someone devoted to training as I was, would ever bother to find it.
A week later, at the Fells, I heard someone calling my name across Sheepfold Meadow, and I saw Caroline on the edge of the grounds, waving and smiling. I was surprised and pleased--she must have actually remembered my byzantine directions, then followed through. Paying attention, I was would come to find out, was one of the things Caroline did. She called me a few days later to propose a walk together; when she couldn't reach me, she called again. An introvert with a Texan's affability, I was well-intentioned but weak on follow-through; not without reason did an old friend refer to me as a gregarious hermit. I wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone. Caroline knocked politely on the front door of my interior space, waited, then knocked again. -- Gail Caldwell in Let's Take the Long Way Home
They met over the dogs, both writers, Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp became best friends, talking about everything from their shared history of a struggle with alcohol to their relationships with men and colleagues, and their love of writing and books. They walked the woods of New England and rowed on the Charles River, and the miles they logged onland and water and became a measure of the interior ground they covered. These two private, fiercely self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen. With her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion and grief in this moving memoir about treasuring and losing a best friend, and coming of age in midlife.
I loved Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. It is easy to picture and relate to the life she describes in brief, "single woman, doesn't want kids, loves dogs." I'm tempted to quote Caldwell's long explanation as well because she says it so well. But then I've marked my copy of the book in so many places and I realize that quoting whole sections of her book makes for a boring review.
What I loved about the book and why I recommend it: Caldwell writes so well and the story of their friendship will remind you of the best friendships that you've made. The humor, support, kindness, and closeness that Caroline and Gail shared come across so well.
The independence and strength that Gail and Caroline seem to share is inspiring as well. The book reminds me of the times when I've felt as independent, certain and strong and of the people that help us stay strong. It's not that Let's Take the Long Way Home is in any way a self help book. But reading about Caroline and Gail, their lives and stories, encourages us to better understand our own. Beautifully written, incisive, and funny, Let's Take the Long Way Home is a book to savor.
ISBN-10: 0812979117 - Paperback $ 14.00
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 9, 2011), 224 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.
About the Author:
Gail Caldwell is the former chief book critic for the Boston Globe, where she was a staff writer and critic for more than twenty years. In 2001 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism. She is also the author of a memoir of her native Texas, A Strong West Wind. Caldwell lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.