I finished reading Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell two days ago and like a good book will, thoughts of it linger in my consciousness. Yesterday, as I walked by a stack of them in the bookstore, a woman about my age browsed nearby.
“This is wonderful.” I held the book up.
“Hmm. I thought it sounded depressing,” she answered.
I paused, surprised. Depressing. Yes, of course a book about the loss of your best-friend might sound like a downer. Why was I surprised at her reaction?
“Oh, no,” I said. “Poignant, yes – but very beautiful – not depressing.” I wonder if she picked it up after I left.
Earlier in the day, a woman looking for a new parenting book called Little Girls Can Be Mean and I agreed how puzzling it is that girls are indeed, so often mean to each other -much more so than little boys. Yet later in life, women’s friendships are so rich and loving – more than what most men get to experience. Boyfriends may come and go but our girlfriends remain anchors and our loyalty, fierce. Years have sometimes passed without contact with some friends but when we reconnected, it was as if no time or space ever separated us. My friends are now tightly woven into my life. During bitter times, they held me together, letting me cry, reminding me to laugh.
One dear one is as far away as Tasmania and another is across the street. Most precious of all is the friendship with my sister, Anne. We have the bonus connection of genetic understanding as additional cement. We get each other immediately and on every level. This is what Caldwell and Knapp had.
Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a loving glimpse into Gail Caldwell’s enviable relationship with fellow writer and dog-lover, Caroline Knapp (Drinking: A Love Story and Pack of Two) who died while still in her forties, of cancer. This gem of a book was borne out of Caldwell’s loss. Affecting, (I made the mistake of reading the last chapter during a lunch break at work) but not depressing.
I am fascinated by grief – or maybe not really grief itself, but rather, how us humans process profound sadness, the inevitable and dread part of the emotional spectrum of life. Gail Caldwell opens a door to this dark room and amidst the shadows of sadness you feel grateful for the experience – all of it: the pain, the love, life.