Not Oprah’s Book Club: Let’s Take the Long Way Home

“We never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

This is how Gail Caldwell so stunningly describes the death that a dear friendship has on her life. Her memoir, Let’s Take the Long Way Home, is chockfull of such stunning, singing sentences. I started folding down the corners of pages, not wanting to break for even a moment to go grab a pencil, but not wanting to forget some of the lines that took my breath away.

I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the friend that Caldwell writes about is the incredible and gone-far-too-soon Caroline Knapp. Knapp’s Appetites was actually one of the reasons I was inspired to write Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, so I have a very personal love of her prose. It’s fitting, to me, that her best friend—the woman she vacationed with, rowed with, discussed every little thing on earth with—would also be a powerfully talented writer.

And what a treat for a writer of Caldwell’s talent to construct a memoir about friendship—an oft ignored or underplayed centerpiece of so many of our lives. She didn’t romanticize her relationship with Knapp, but instead painted a vivid picture of their extraordinarily ordinary and life giving bond. “Masters of our own universe,” she writes, “we were, a country small and self-determined.”

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