Former chief book critic for The Boston Globe, Pulitzer Prize-winner Gail Caldwell's second foray into the terrain of memoir demonstrates once again that she is as capable of writing a book as she is of reading one. Instead of the Texas of her youth, this time Caldwell is firmly ensconced in the scenery of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she regularly walks her Samoyed, Clemetine. Let's Take the Long Way Home is the story of her connection with the dog, but mainly her connection with a fellow canine enthusiast, Caroline Knapp, former columnist for the Boston Pheonix and author of the memoir Drinking: A Love Story, who died of cancer in 2002.
Narrating this touching testimony of the friendship between two stubborn ladies and their pets is Joyce Bean, who has given voice to over a hundred audiobooks and also has directed the recording of dozens more. Bean blends a beautiful combination of Amarillo twang to the vowels and Bostonite grinding to the consonants, capturing Caldwell's delicate story with a uniquely dignified grace that does not give quarter to the sugary sentimentality of so many tales in this genre.
The senior member of the friendship by 10 years, Caldwell still has a lot to learn from Knapp. As they spent a great deal of time outdoors, either walking the dogs or training to row down the river, both women overcome personal demons to let in the light of the other. Both journalists, both alcoholics, both lonely dog lovers, Caldwell charts the little differences between them that enriched their extraordinary friendship. This book is a real and straightforward treatment of grief, put into proper perspective as a situation of personal growth and memory through the voice work of Joyce Bean, who keeps both feet on the ground in a tone that does justice to Caldwell's deeply honest reflections. Megan Volpert
In Let's Take the Long Way Home, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gail Caldwell offers a powerful and moving memoir about her coming-of-age in mid-life and her extraordinary friendship with Caroline Knapp, the author of Drinking: A Love Story.
In her younger years, Caldwell defined herself by rebellion and independence, a passion for books, and an aversion to intimacy and a distrust of others. Then, while living in Cambridge in her early 40s, Caldwell adopted a rambunctious puppy named Clementine. On one of their bucolic walks, she met Caroline and her dog, Lucille, and both women's lives changed forever.
Though they are more different than alike, these two fiercely private, independent women quickly relax into a friendship more profound than either of them expected, a friendship that will thrive on their shared secrets, including parallel struggles with alcoholism and loneliness. They grow increasingly inseparable until, in 2003, Caroline is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
In her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion and grief in this wise and affecting account about losing her best friend. Let's Take the Long Way Home is also a celebration of life and all the little moments worth cherishing - and affirms why Gail Caldwell is rightly praised as one of our bravest and most honest literary voices.
©2010 Gail Caldwell (P)2010 Tantor
“Stunning...a book of such crystalline truth that it makes the heart ache.” (The Boston Globe)
The beauty of this book is in the writing. Boy can Gail Caldwell write. It's such a tribute to her friendship with Caroline as well as her dogs. It's also a lesson on how we all handle pain and loss. Bring out the Kleenex but it's worth it!
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