When “Sex and the City” burst onto the scene, men thought women loved it because of the clothes, good-looking men, and sex. And we did love all that. But what every woman I know loved most was the friendship shared by the four women, and the sheer luxury of the time they spent together. They had crazy lives individually, but at the center of those lives they had brunch every Sunday and the haven of complete honesty with one another during those crucial hours. (Then Carrie went off and had sex with Mr. Big or tried on Jimmy Choos, but that’s another story.)
Let’s Take the Long Way Home is the true story of what a deep and intimate one-on-one friendship can be. This book is not for everyone (nor, probably, is that kind of friendship), but I think it will resonate with many readers. It certainly did with me.
Gail Caldwell, whose memoir this is, was the book review editor at the Boston Globe when she met Caroline Knapp, a columnist for The Boston Phoenix. They were smart, articulate women – well into adulthood, successful, opinionated, and each with a past that included way too much alcohol. Caroline had revealed her struggle in her memoir Drinking: A Love Story. Gail was “old school and deeply private about [her] own struggles with alcohol.” They met after they got sober, when they were each in the throes of training a young and rambunctious dog. Gail writes
“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. “
Within weeks they were inseparable – drawn together by their dogs’ need for exercise and their own need for friendship. They walked for miles every few days, carrying pockets full of “liver snaps for the dogs and graham crackers for the humans” as Clementine and Lucille bounded across fields ahead of them. After hours of deep conversation, they would separate, go inside their respective houses and phone one another to keep the conversation going. Perfect, right?
But, of course, there is the proverbial fly in the ointment. Gail reveals on page one
“It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that too. “
This is a gorgeous book. It is beautifully written, uplifting, hopeful, and sometimes heartbreaking. It is filled with love. You will cry, but you will laugh much more. Thankfully, as in life, the dogs steal every scene they’re in and ease you through the hard times.
I know this is going to be seen as a woman’s book and that is a shame, because a lot of men know and love women like Gail and Caroline and want their own kind of deep, revelatory friendship. Part of me wants to grab every man I’ve ever known and say, “Here, read this. This is what women mean when we talk about our best friendships. This is what we seek. Just this.”