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Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 10, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 276 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: "The flaw is the thing we love." Of all the passages worthy of dog-earing (or highlighting) in Let's Take the Long Way Home (and there are many), this one is the most powerful wellspring. It captures the very thing we hope to find in friendship: a person who admires and cares for us not in spite of our flaws, but in acceptance of them, as part and parcel of who we are. For Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp--two intensely driven, talented writers who found in each other an uncannily similar share of life experiences and ambitions--loving the flaws became a cornerstone of their friendship. This is a beautiful story of the best things about best friends: shared rituals and private jokes, long walks (in this case, with their dearly loved dogs) and longer talks, confessions and discoveries. It would be wrong to say that their friendship ended with Caroline's unexpected death, because it so obviously lives and breathes in the rich and wonderful tapestry of stories told here. --Anne Bartholomew

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Caldwell (A Strong West Wind) has managed to do the inexpressible in this quiet, fierce work: create a memorable offering of love to her best friend, Caroline Knapp, the writer (Drinking: A Love Story) who died of lung cancer at age 42 in 2002. The two met in the mid-1990s: "Finding Caroline was like placing a personal ad for an imaginary friend, then having her show up at your door funnier and better than you had conceived." Both single, writers (Caldwell was then book critic for the Boston Globe), and living alone in the Cambridge area, the two women bonded over their dog runs in Fresh Pond Reservoir, traded lessons in rowing (Knapp's sport) and swimming (Caldwell's), and shared stories, clothes, and general life support as best friends. Moreover, both had stopped drinking at age 33 (Caldwell was eight years older than her friend); both had survived early traumas (Caldwell had had polio as a child; Knapp had suffered anorexia). Their attachment to each other was deeply, mutually satisfying, as Caldwell describes: "Caroline and I coaxed each other into the light." Yet Knapp's health began to falter in March 2002, with stagefour lung cancer diagnosed; by June she had died. Caldwell is unflinching in depicting her friend's last days, although her own grief nearly undid her; she writes of this desolating time with tremendously moving grace.
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067383
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067381
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"I wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone." ~ Gail Caldwell

From the start of this profoundly beautiful story we know that Gail Caldwell loses her best friend Caroline Knapp. As she puts it so precisely, you can't "sidestep the cruelty of an intolerable loss." For about a third of this book the words were blurry because it is so moving. Just when I thought I had composed myself enough to read on, I cried again. Sometimes I'd read a sentence and reread it again and again because it was so true.

This is the story of two soul mates who love dogs, swimming and sculling. In some way it doesn't matter what they were doing, they just loved being together. After an outing they would find themselves both at home calling each other on the phone. Their friendship is deep, meaningful and essential!

There are some surprising details like how they both dated the same man. What are the chances of that happening? Then there is the fact that they both loved drinking at one point in their lives and overcame their addiction before meeting. Gail Caldwell talks briefly about her own drinking problem but mostly focuses on the friendship.

"Let's Take the Long Way Home" is a book that will work its way into your heart in ways few books ever will. I loved the warmth of Gail Caldwell's writing style and how she expresses such honest feelings in lucid prose. This is one of the best books I've read this year!

~The Rebecca Review
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This beautiful memoir of friendship could only come from someone who has experienced an intimate emotional connection of the highest level with another human being. Gail Caldwell had that connection with fellow writer Caroline Knapp, then lost it when Knapp died shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

I was consumed by Knapp's own memoir, Drinking: A Love Story many years ago. I remember reading of Knapp's death not long after that and feeling so pained by the fact that she had survived alcoholism only to be robbed of her life just a few years later. Caldwell's book was like finding a missing piece for me, an intimate look into the lives of Knapp and Caldwell and the tremendous friendship they wove together through walks in the woods, long summer vacations together and countless hours on the phone. A friendship that close changes lives forever, but neither was prepared for what lie ahead.

It seemed perverse almost, that fate would tear these two souls apart and Caldwell chronicles her private suffering with unrelenting candor and despair. Not only could I see the hole in her heart, her brilliant storytelling allowed me to feel it to some degree. That's the mark of excellence in a good memoir. Let's Take the Long Way Home doesn't just tell a story. It takes us along for a walk in the woods and like Caldwell, at journey's end, we're never the same.

Highly recommended, esp. after reading Knapp's memoir.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Gail Caldwell's memoir is a touching account of friendship that is brief but all encompassing. Although she and Caroline Knapp are only friends for seven years before Caroline is felled by lung cancer, the two built a relationship that is deeper than what's enjoyed by many blood relatives.

Their lives contained many similarities. Both women are childless, single writers and former alcoholics who initially bond over their dogs, but their relationship deepens to the point where Gail says it was easy to mistake them for sisters or lovers.

Both women are loners which makes it seem kind of unlikely that they would form this lasting friendship, but their relationship works because they respect each other's boundaries and both believed in confronting problems head-on instead of stewing in silence.

Gail's account of her years as a functional alcoholic are stark and poignant. In one particularly bad moment, she passes out in a drunken stupor and breaks four ribs. This doesn't stop her from drinking and she fashions a portable bar by attaching a bag of ice and a flask of liquor to her crutches. It takes her a long time to accept that she was in fact an alcoholic and needed help to stop drinking. And unlike Caroline who'd written a book about her drinking problem, Gail never really liked to discuss this part of her life and they had been friends for a while before she ever broached the subject.

But despite all their other similarities, it is their devotion to their dogs that dominates most of the story. These women love their animals and spent lots of time and money training and caring for them.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have tears, prepare to shed them.

Caroline Knapp was the author of Drinking: A Love Story. I've wriiten about it on [...] because some of you surely have issues with alcohol, and I thought it might be of use. And because it's acutely observed and beautifully written. And because there's a painful irony here: Caroline got sober, only to die in June of 2002, when she was forty-two, seven weeks after she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

Caroline Knapp had a best friend. Gail Caldwell. Also a writer. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2001. She too had alcohol issues.

Two women writers. Both dog lovers. Both recovering alcoholics. Both living alone, and liking it. Both athletes. Near-neighbors in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Friends. Best friends. One died. The other wrote a book: "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship." [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

There are men and women I love, and I think they know it, and I hope they know how incredibly lucky I feel that I'm in their lives, but we're talking about something else here, something deeper and more precious and, certainly, scarier.

"It's an old story," Caldwell begins. "I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that.''

Define everything. Well, rowing on the Charles River. Writing. Alcoholism. And, most of all, afternoon-long walk with their dogs:

"'Let's take the long way home,' she would say once we had gotten to the car, and then we would wend our way through the day traffic of Somerville or Medford, in no hurry to separate.
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