Well-known for his heartwarming and charming book about his mischievious, entertaining, and wholely unrepentant dog, Marley, in Marley and Me, Grogan has written an equally charming story about his childhood and coming of age as a son in The Longest Road Home.
Growing up in suburban Detroit to devout Catholic parents, Grogan's memoir opens with his mother waking the four children for their summer vacation, driving to see a saint's shrine 7 hours away. This sort of religious devotion was a part and parcel of Grogan's idyllic childhood. He went to Catholic school, served as an altar boy, and attended Mass almost daily. But he was definitely not a sedate Catholic school boy, drinking the communion wine, trying to grow a marijuana plant in his garden, coming up with ways to torment the neighborhood's crotchety old man, and publishing an underground student newspaper among other boyish misdeeds. He chronicles high jinks and high spirits and his parents' unwavering faith in and unstinting loyalty to him, despite his "stretching" of the truth.
Grogan doesn't shy away from admitting that he falls away from his parents' faith early and only maintains a facade for them because he doesn't want to disillusion them. As an adult, he starts to make more and more choices at odds with the Church's teachings and it is only through looking dispassionately at his choices and at why he has made them, despite his parents' disappointments, that he comes to a full sense of who he is and how he is still inextricably bound to his loving and forgiving family. While he may not have grown into the faithful Catholic they had hoped to raise, I feel certain that his parents were and are proud of the man he became.
In some way, Grogan has written a memoir of every man. His mother and father are vividly and lovingly drawn. His rambunctious childhood reflects so many others' and highlights the best of a middle class Midwestern upbringing. There is a sweet poignancy in his chronicling, a hearkening back to a sweet and uncomplicated time. But there is a desperation as well, especially once the memoir moves into the realm of John's adulthood. The reader knows that his octogenarian father's advancing leukemia is dangerous and terrifying and that his parents' advancing ages, slowing down, and the scattering of his siblings and his childhood friends are all inevitable parts of his life.
Beautifully written, this is a paean to a past childhood, to his parents' faithful religion, and to the coming of age of a son who is resigned to not being the man his parents envisioned but who is a good human being even so. Like Marley and Me, this is an accessible and charming memoir and readers will not regret an afternoon spent with the Grogan family.
John Grogan's website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
Visit other blogs on the tour to see their reviews of the book:
Wednesday, October 21st: The Novel Book Worm
Thursday, October 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, October 26th: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, October 27th: Readaholic
Tuesday, November 3rd: Bookstack
Thursday, November 5th: The Book Zombie
Monday, November 9th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Thursday, November 12th: Cozy Little House
Tuesday, November 17th: Starting Fresh
Date TBD: The Book Lady’s Blog
Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.