Friday, December 24, 2010
Four our 24th book, I get to talk about the book that moved me the most this year: Let's Take the Long Way Home, by Gail Caldwell. This is a beautifully written story by a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist about the friendship between two women: both writers, both recovering alcoholics, and both devoted to their dogs, written by the one who had to carry on after her friend died way too young from lung cancer.
"It's an old, old story," writes Caldwell. "I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too." Caroline Knapp, her friend, was probably best known for her books Drinking: A Love Story and Pack of Two, about people's relationships with her dogs. The Merry Recluse is a collection of columns she wrote for the Boston Phoenix, published posthumously. [One column I recall from the book was about the annoyance of shopping for clothes in catalogs, and how much more convenient it would be if the UPS driver would wait on the front porch while she tried on her new clothes and just took away what didn't work for her, saving her another trip to ship them back.]
Caldwell's book is gorgeous and moving and heartbreaking without being treacly. You will laugh, you will cry. But mostly you will be moved, deeply, by the fiercely honest portrayal of friendship and loss. Here's my favorite line (among many) from the book: "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."
If you are a dog lover, then you truly MUST read this book. But I'm a cat person myself, and I still adored this book. When you finish with this one, you should try Caldwell's first book, A Strong West Wind (a memoir) and Caroline's books. They're all terrific.