This week, I read “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell. It’s been called a “memoir of friendship” — a lovely sounding phrase if you ask me.

I was excited to read this book because I’m such a huge fan of Caroline Knapp, the friend about which this memoir written. Caroline wrote “Appetites” (my short review here) and “Drinking: A Love Story” — two beautifully written memoirs that truly touched me.

She died in her 40s of lung cancer after overcoming the demons of an eating disorder, alcoholism and more. She was a profound woman, deep and anguished in her thinking about life and all of it’s mysteries. She found a friend who understood her in Gail.

Caroline Knapp. This pic won’t  blow up any larger.

Gail and Caroline’s friendship in some ways sounded like a love story but when you think about it, I guess it kind of was. I’ve always thought I have a lot of good friends — that was I lucky in that way. Yes, I am. But who knows me to my core? Sometimes, it seems like no one.

Do you ever get the feeling that no one in the whole world could ever, truly “get” you and all the crazy thoughts in your head, irrational feelings in your soul? Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder if you even really know who you are at all?

When a book makes me ask questions like this, I know it’s a good one. When a book has me pondering the people in my own life, the thoughts in my own head, re-examining how I think about life — the little things and the biggest ones — that’s how I know, this kind of book doesn’t come around very often.

I loved Gail and Caroline for being single and happy in their 40s. I loved that marriage was not a “thing” they always aspired too or were sad not to have. I loved the freedom in their relationship to be and do and listen and love just as they were. Friendships can get tossed aside in the flurry of life, marriage, children, careers…it’s a rare gift to maintain something like this as we get older.

Author Gail Caldwell (10 years after Caroline’s passing)

Even now, I’m busy doing life and hardly ever have the time to to actually marinate in real, quality time with someone. It’s always meeting up after work, a quick phone call, a 30-minute coffee break, or 4 people at a time to catch up at happy hour. No empty Saturdays or long walks  without a schedule to lead us.

I have these quality times with Rick and he is truly my best friend. However, your husband or boyfriend is a best friend dynamic all its own. It doesn’t replace the female friendship nearly all of us crave. I crave my friendships, I relish them and take a lot of joy in being there for people — in knowing I have people I can call at 3am. In knowing that there are people that get my weird stuff, my rude stuff, my careless stuff…they get me.

In the book, Gail talks about “the people you can call at 3am from the ER but that you wouldn’t call if you just cut your finger.” Do you know what I mean? I know my 3am people — do you know yours? When I really think about it, the list is pretty darn short. And I guess those are the ones you know that matter.

So anyway, the title was fitting — from a line in the book when Gail and Caroline are coming back from day at the park with their dogs. They are driving back to town and Caroline says to Gail, “Let’s take the long way home.” More time to talk. More time to listen. More time to just be in the atmosphere that is pure, faultless, judgment-less friendship. It’s a salve, sometimes, a true grace. And if you get to have that in your life, you’re one of the lucky ones.
Here’s a great testimonial to the book: 

QUESTION: Do you have a friend like this? Tell me about them.

*I couldn’t find any photos of Gail and Caroline together. Their friendship was before the days of Internet everything and it seems like Gail never uploaded any for the book either. Interesting…

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