Review: Let’s Take the Long Way Home – Gail Caldwell

Gail Caldwell’s memoir “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” is a story of friendship and love. It’s also a story about coping with loss and learning to move on after the death of a loved one.

It was a bond so close that both women, Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp eased into the friendship with so little effort that it seemed to rock both their worlds. Their friendship is formed after being introduced at a party and then again meeting on a walking trail where both women walked their dogs on a daily basis. After agreeing to walk together regularly, both women and their dogs Clementine and Lucille develop a routine that becomes second nature.

When Gail writes about her friendship with Caroline, you can tell that there is a level of respect and admiration. They also share many characteristics, both having experienced the bouts of alcohol. Each of them dealt with the difficulties of being an alcoholic and Gail shares her difficulties with us in this memoir. Caroline Knapp, also a successful author, wrote about her experience with alcohol in her 1997 memoir, “Drinking: A Love Story“. After both recovering from this disease, they find solace in their friendship and spending time with their dogs. They also spent their time challenging one another when it came to sports. Teaching one another how to row and swim. Having close personal relationships with a best friend is something I’ve been blessed to have happen as well and many of the stories discussed reminded me of my best friends and I, leaning on one another when times get tough and knowing that they’ll always have your back.

Unfortunately for Caroline, bad news came when she realized that she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and there was little doctors could do to try to make her better, many doctors recommended ways “to make her comfortable”. Finding out that your best friend is going to die in a few months is a shocking blow to take and Caroline knew that her diagnosis was bad when people were being extra nice to her, she also knew it was going to be really hard on Gail. As Gail explained in her memoir, Caroline asked her if she was mad at her for getting sick, knowing that it meant that she was going to be without her on their daily walks and there would be no one to call when something good or bad happens. The pages that describe Caroline’s death are filled with sadness and a sense of loneliness, but Gail is strong for her friend and ensures her that everything is going to be looked after and that she’ll figure everything out. They even discuss the poem that will be read at her funeral, Louise Bogan’s, “Song for the Last Act“.

Her death leaves an absence in Gail’s life, she still smells her in her home, she misses their calls, she misses her companion. However, I think that Gail knew that Caroline would never want her to fall apart so she finds ways to put the pieces back together. This book is clearly a tool used to help Gail figure things out and her story makes us reflect on always focusing on the good in your friendships, which both Gail and Caroline did everyday. It was written with love and really made me want to call all my best friends and tell them all the reasons I love them so much. She is a talented author who currently resides in Massachusetts with her dog Tula.

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