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The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir Hardcover – October 21, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Finding your place in the world can be the longest trip home . . .

In his debut bestseller, Marley & Me, John Grogan showed how a dog can become an extraordinary presence in the life of one family. Now, in his highly anticipated follow-up, Grogan again works his magic, bringing us the story of what came first.

Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous boy growing up in a devout Catholic home outside Detroit in the 1960s and '70s. Despite his loving parents' best efforts, John's attempts to meet their expectations failed spectacularly. Whether it was his disastrous first confession, the use of his hobby telescope to take in the bronzed Mrs. Selahowski sunbathing next door, the purloined swigs of sacramental wine, or, as he got older, the fumbled attempts to sneak contraband past his father and score with girls beneath his mother's vigilant radar, John was figuring out that the faith and fervor that came so effortlessly to his parents somehow had eluded him.

And then one day, a strong-willed young woman named Jenny walked into his life. As their love grew, John began the painful, funny, and poignant journey into adulthood—away from his parents' orbit and into a life of his own. It would take a fateful call and the onset of illness to lead him on the final leg of his journey—the trip home again.

The Longest Trip Home is a book for any son or daughter who has sought to forge an identity at odds with their parents', and for every parent who has struggled to understand the values of their children. It is a book about mortality and grace, spirit and faith, and the powerful love of family. With his trademark blend of humor and pathos that made Marley & Me beloved by millions, John Grogan traces the universal journey each of us must take to find our unique place in the world.

Filled with revelation and laugh-out-loud humor, The Longest Trip Home will capture your heart—but mostly it will make you want to reach out to those you love.

Questions for John Grogan

Q:When did you decide to write about your childhood and your relationship with your parents as the subject of your next book?

A: For many years I knew I wanted to write about my childhood. I was born in 1957, so I was growing up in the middle of all the turmoil and social unrest of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was a pretty eventful time. But that’s just the first section of The Longest Trip Home. It was only in the last few years that I began seeing the book as more than a growing-up memoir. My childhood was part of the story, but of equal importance was the often funny and sometimes painful struggle I made as a young adult to break free from my parents’ influence and find my own place in the world. I realized pretty quickly my courtship of my future wife, Jenny, was central to this part of the story. And then, as I entered middle age and my parents their sunset years, I saw that time was running out to reconcile and reconnect with them. I ended up writing the book in three parts: Growing Up, Breaking Away, and Coming Home.

Q: How do you think readers will relate to your story?

A: Well, we all belong to families. We all have to deal with those messy, complicated, often infuriating dynamics that it seems no family is without. All of us, too, must find our way free of our parents’ orbit and to our own place in the world. And we all must come to terms at some point with our parents’ mortality--and our own. After I wrote Marley & Me and was going around the country talking about it, countless readers came up to me and said nearly the identical thing: “It was as if you were writing about my life.” I hope readers will find the same relevance and touch points in The Longest Trip Home.

Q: Do you ever visit your old neighborhood?

A: I go back at least once or twice a year. My mother resides in a nursing home not far away, and my family still owns our childhood house in Harbor Hills. The neighborhood has changed dramatically in the thirty years since I left home. Nearly every waterfront home --lovely in their day but considered modest by today’s standards--has been torn down and replaced with opulent mansions. The houses away from the water, such as the ones in which my friends Tommy, Rock, and Sack grew up, are largely unchanged, but the cars parked in the driveways, mostly European, are a far cry from the made-in-America Chevrolets and Fords that were the order of the day when I was a kid. My childhood home has changed not at all; it’s almost like a museum relic. Same kitchen cupboards, same linoleum floor, same bathroom tile. I cannot visit the old homestead or walk those neighborhood streets without being flooded with memories, a lot of good ones and some bittersweet. Thomas Wolfe was right: you can never go home again. Not easily, at least.

Q: Your parents were tremendously devoted to each other, and yet they sound like they were definitely a case of opposites attracting. How were they different?

A: My father was shy, quiet, and bashful. He was serious and meticulous and a horrible dancer. My mother was just the opposite, gregarious, funny, spunky, the life of any party, and light on her feet. Mom loved to pull pranks and tell stories; Dad was incapable of teasing someone and loved to listen to her stories. She was in bed before ten o’clock most nights; he seldom hit the sack before one a.m. Dad would hang a picture on the wall by measuring to the thirty-second of an inch and using a level. Mom would squint through one eye and drive a nail in wherever the spirit led her. But they both had generous and kind hearts, and they shared a deep, life-long devotion to their faith and to God. As the expression goes, the family that prays together stays together. For my parents, that certainly was the case. Their faith was the pillar that supported their marriage for nearly six decades.

Q: How did your parents influence you as a parent? What life lessons did you learn from them?

A: Growing up, I never once doubted my parents’ love for me. Even though the words “I love you” were seldom spoken in our house, especially by the men, there also was no question about that love. Their actions, their concern, their worry, their amusement at their children’s antics--even some of the more egregious ones--all spoke to their strong love for each other and their children. And it was an unconditional love. Even at times when I knew I had disappointed them deeply, I never wondered about their love for me. They taught me that every child deserves the security of knowing he or she is loved unconditionally. As a parent, I’m trying to follow in their footsteps that way.

Q: Your father wasn’t able to witness your success. What do you think he would have thought?

A: My father died in December 2004, while Marley & Me was still in the manuscript stage. Dad was always the biggest fan of my work, even my first college internship at a community weekly paper called, of all things, The Spinal Column. He religiously clipped and saved my newspaper columns and magazine articles. I know how proud he would be of me as an author. At the same time, I am certain I could not have written The Longest Trip Home while he was still alive. As I’ve said, I believe you shouldn’t tell a story unless you can tell it honestly and openly. If I knew my father would be reading it, I don’t think I could have done that.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Grogan follows up Marley & Me with a hilarious and touching memoir of his childhood in suburban Detroit. To say my parents were devout Catholics is like saying the sun runs a little hot, he writes. It defined who they were. Grogan and his three siblings grew up in a house full of saints' effigies, attended a school run by ruler-wielding nuns and even spent family vacations at religious shrines, chapels and monasteries. Grogan defied his upbringing through each coming-of-age milestone: his first impure thoughts, which he couldn't bare to divulge at his First Confession (the priest was a family friend); his first buzz from the communion wine he chugged with his fellow altar boys; and his coming to know women in the biblical sense. As Grogan matured, his unease with Church doctrine grew, and he realized he'd never share his parents' religious zeal. Telling them he's joined the ranks of the nonpracticing Catholics, however, is much easier said than done, even in adulthood. At 30, he fell in love with a Protestant, moved in with her and then married her—a sequence of events that crushed his parents. In this tenderly told story, Grogan considers the rift between the family he's made and the family that made him—and how to bridge the two. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061713244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061713248
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Grogan's memoir is one of the best I've read in a long time. On one level it's about growing up Catholic and balancing conflicting family values. But mostly it's such a good read that I'd recommend Longest Trip Home to any fan of the memoir genre.

The first part of the book takes us through Grogan's traditional Catholic upbringing: big family, loving parents, Catholic schools. Memoir readers will recognize familiar themes, such as the cruel Catholic schools. But Grogan adds his own touches. I've always wondered if altar boys really sipped the wine and Grogan tells us how it's done. We also meet Shaun, the Grogan family dog, who earned the nickname "Saint Shaun" for good behavior. Readers can speculate on how Shaun influenced Grogan's response to the famous Marley.

Grogan's parents displayed unusual understanding and sensitivity. Realizing John was a miserable misfit in Catholic high school, they allowed him to transfer to public school, where he discovered journalism and lowered his GPA.

Although the first half offers a good read, Grogan's real story begins when he moves in with Jenny, the woman who was to become his wife. Grogan's parents demonstrate the powers of deep denial. Assuming their thirty-year-old son has lived a chaste life, they write long anguished letters.

Grogan writes unsparingly yet lightly of his own struggle to be his own person yet honor his parents' beliefs. He describes the way his contemporaries relate to their religion as "cultural Catholics" and "cafeteria Catholics," both styles rejected firmly by his parents. As his children grow up, Grogan and his wife Jenny compromise -- but only up to a point. I found myself cheering for Jenny, who brought reason and common sense to many tense situations.
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it was outstanding. It went from laugh out loud funny, to sobbing uncontrollably. I grew up about the same time John did, was raised Catholic Irish, and abandoned the church at about the same age John did. John poked a little fun at his Catholic upbringing, but never crossed that line to irreverence or disrrespect. There are parts of this book that difinitely hit home (counting the Virgin Mary statues in the house)and the non Catholic may not find quite as entertaining, because they will probably think they are fabricated- they aren't!!! I love the part where John and Jenny stay in their parent's bedroom as newlyweds- with the crucifix, the Virgin Mary's and the rosary all staring at them.
I was a hippy, always in trouble, and was the first rebel in my family to quit Catholic school after sixth grade and attend public school. But will wonders never cease- after 30+ years of not stepping inside a church except for an occasional wedding or funeral I started attending Catholic Masses on a regular basis about 3 years ago. I thank God that I had a good foundation, and when I was ready to go back to church I knew where to go. I look back and am so appreciative that my family gave me the start that they did. This is a heartwarming book that I will definitely recommend- especially to my Catholic family and friends
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Before John Grogan had lovable, terrible Marley, he was raised by a very conservative, Catholic family (putting it mildly). He goes to Catholic school, is an altar boy, and spends huge chunks of his life through middle adulthood concealing from his parents that he has no particular affection for religion and that he has abandoned many of the tenants they care most about. As he marries and raises children according to his own moral code, Grogan feels the rift between himself and his parents widen. However, once his father, who had seemed so towering in his childhood, begins to experience a rapidly failing health, Grogan looks anew at his childhood and his relationship with his parents.

Quote: "At West Bloomfield, the teachers offered learning the way waiters offer canapes at a cocktail party. You could help yourself or wave them away. If I wanted to learn, they would teach me; if I chose not to, they were happy to ignore me. After nine years of Catholic education, where the nuns and brothers forced performance, often by the threat of physical pain, I was free to fail."

I really enjoyed Marley and Me, so I was looking forward to reading this book. It was not bad, but it read like the stereotypical Catholic childhood. I realize it is strange to offer that as a critique concerning someone's actual life story (like they could help it!), but it did get exhausting to read after a while. I guess I would have at least liked some thoughtful analysis or different spin - something that feels like we haven't heard it all before. In fact, it sounds like the life stories of Grogan's father or brother Tim would have been much more interesting to read. These are given a brief fly over treatment that sounded fascinating and left me wanting to read more about those two.
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This book is the best book I've ever read. I laughed so hard my kids came running to see if I had 'lost it' then I cried so hard at the end I actually couldn't hold the book. John writes as if you are right there with him experiencing the same things he is....most of which I have growing up in suburban Detroit myself. Read this one first and then read Marly & Me and while I have to say I loved the story of Marley too, this one is my personal favorite.
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