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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

“Stunning...a book of such crystalline truth that it makes the heart ache.” (The Boston Globe)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Lucie
  • Sanford, ME, United States
  • 09-07-10

Uniquely wonderful book

This is one of the best-written and most powerfully moving books I have read in a long time. Unfortunately, the narrator does not meet this high quality, reading so fast and with so little emotion that I imagined her in the recording studio rushing to finish her task before lunchtime. In spite of this challenge, this book unquestionably deserves five stars.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Poppy
  • Santa Monica, CA, United States
  • 09-17-10

Devastatingly beautiful and superbly written

Gail Caldwell is obviously a very talented writer and her descriptions of loss and grief are unbelievably well and creatively described. I was moved to tears many times, and was constantly surprised by the tale which takes so many different turns despite the knowledge that Caroline would die. The pace of the tale and non-linear time line were seamless and very enjoyable. I didn't want it to end.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

My Story

I loved every word of this book. I've been there, done it, even to a Rottweiler attack on my standard poodle while we walked. I have an extraordinary circle of women friends who watch my back, love me and tell me the truth. From one Texas gal to another, I am a fan of Gail Caldwell. Her voice is my voice...Thank you.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Please, please pronounce the words correctly!

A marvelous, heartrending book with which any dog loving, friend valuing woman will resonate. However, the illusion that we are being read to by the author or omniscient narrator was SHATTERED at a most significant moment when Angel Memorial, the well known animal hospital in Boston, was mispronounced "Angle". Oh, come on, this is important material trivialized by the lack of connection implied by mispronunciation. Few books avoid this problem but this was so important and in such a significant place in the story. This is a plea that all readers and producers of audio books make the effort to know what they read.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Beautifully written

Any additional comments?

This is a familiar story of friendship and loss. What makes it special is the author's way with words. Her narrative is so beautiful that I would find myself rewinding just to listen again to the words flow through my ears like music. Although I almost never reread a book, I may buy the text just so I can savor the language more thoroughly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A Welcomed Surprise

A very easy listen. A heartful very well written story that I could relate to especially from a dear friend's recent news and our own bond. I actually really liked the narrator as her character (voice) seemed to be almost as matter of factly, earnest and strong as the women. The parts about each person's addiction and how they went through that journey was really well interlaced into the entire story. Well done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

beautiful memior

i really enjoyed this beautiful well written account about two women who bonded deeply to each other.

thank you Ms. Caldwell for allowing readers to share your relationship with Caroline.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A dog story, a friend story

What made the experience of listening to Let's Take the Long Way Home the most enjoyable?

A pleasant narrator with great expression

Who was your favorite character and why?

The main character Gail was my favorite. She was a great friend and loved dogs.

What about Joyce Bean’s performance did you like?

Great voice, no fake accents, no trying too hard. Gentle flow. Great expression.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not in one evening but I listened to it over a week.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Heartbreaking

incredible story of human and animal connection that gives tribute to the friendship if a lifetime

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  • Story

Thought provoking

I loved this story. I laughed, I cried, I lamented that I don't have a relationship with a girlfriend as strong and all encompassing as the one played out in the story.