Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell

Gail Caldwell met fellow author Caroline Knapp through their mutual dog trainer and the two of them soon discovered that they were, in Anne of Green Gables parlance, kindred spirits. Their relationship wasn't just friendship, it defined the concept of best friend, that rare and precious ideal. This gorgeous and loving memoir is a tribute to that friendship and the terrible loss of it when Knapp, still so young, died of cancer.

Both Caldwell and Knapp were, as many writers are, solitary souls but each became for the other, a bright and safe light in the world of connection. They shared their hopes and dreams through the prism of everything they had in common--not just the writing but also their battles against alcoholism, their love of dogs, and their focus in life. Knapp taught Caldwell to scull and the two of them spent hours on the Charles River rowing together and going their own way. And this is perhaps an apt metaphor for their relationship. Each woman taught the other, they worked together, and they freely gave each other the space to go it alone, celebrating each others' individuality even as they pursued similar goals.

There are brief dips into both Caldwell and Knapp's pasts and the memoir isn't strictly chronological. It is more a free flowing meditation that captures something deeply precious and sadly ephemeral unconstrained by the mundane sense of time as a line. It is a record of Caldwell's heart laid bare for the reader, her gift to everyone who has missed out on knowing the amazing person who was her friend. It is grief-filled and poignantly accurate about the sucker punch that is loss. But ultimately it is a magnificent and beautifully written memoir that captures and records the friendship that is too special to let fade away with Knapp's death.

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 Criticism. She is also the author of A Strong West Wind, a memoir of her native Texas. Caldwell lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (from the Random House site)

This review is a part of TLC Book Tours but the copy of the book was purchased by me.


  1. This book is on my wishlist. Thank you for the review, I am definitely bumping it up!!

  2. Some friendships are meant to be treasured and it sounds like this book does exactly that.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this one.

  3. I read this a couple of months ago and also loved it. WOW the paperback cover is very different from the hardcover. Did you read Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp? It's pretty intense.


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