Monday, August 30, 2010

Let's Take the Long Way Home, by Gail Caldwell

In a perfect world Muslims would be allowed to build mosques anywhere they want, but wouldn't choose to pick a site that offended. In a perfect world teachers in our Indianapolis Public Schools would have the funds to purchase all the supplies they need, obviating the need to dumpster dive in the back lots of the school in the neighboring, wealthy, suburban school. And, in a perfect world love would trump all.

Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp both descended into alcoholism in their younger lives; but despite their troubled starts, each recovered and went onto have successful writing careers. Then, in that 40-plus stage of life, they each found the other and forged a friendship of the highest caliber.

"Let's Take the Long Way Home" is their love story. And no, it's not a romantic love story; this one is purely platonic. Gail Caldwell, a journalist, and Caroline Knapp, author of the memoir "Drinking: A Love Story," bond over many things, but what stands alone is their shared love for their pets, the two dogs Clementine and Lucy. LTTLWH includes many stories about the two women walking and training their two dogs together, and this helped to cement their friendship. In one horrific part Caldwell tells of an incident in which Clementine is mauled by two pit bulls, and her description of the scene and the small details of her reaction are so spot-on I had to pause the CD, as it brought back in vivid detail memories of the time my dog, Mischief, was attacked.

Caldwell cared for Caroline in her last days (she died of cancer) and memorializes their friendship in stunning prose, including many passages that are descriptive rather than driven by scene, which adds to the depth of the narrative. LTTLWH is a gorgeously written, hopeful story. If you have a beloved friend, or a beloved dog, you will find your heart touched.

No, it's not a perfect world, but by giving us this glimpse into her friendship and showing us the unwavering, pure love two people can have for each other, Gail Caldwell reminds us how to make our world just a little less imperfect.

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