It turned out not to be a book about another dog. Instead, it was a family memoir, anecdotal and at the same time heart rending, funny, and deeply moving. Grogan grew up in a deeply pre-Vatican II Irish/ Catholic family, along with three siblings. Grogan was the family brat who get into constant trouble (think lovable Marley). He was trying to be a loyal son while slowly heading down his own lifes path of vocations and opinion. That is to say he evolved from apathetic student to anti-establishment underground newspaper editor and found his calling with the encouragement of a high school English teacher. Ultimately, his parents' religious dream for their children created a rift. Grogan failed to share their strict Catholic faith - Sundays were for sleeping in, sex before marriage didn't condemn him to damnation - and finally stops hiding that fact. They tried to avoid the subject, but the religion that bound the young John to his parents separated the adult John from them. The "trip home" in the title described his attempts to cross that divide, with a satisfying result. This is a great story of how the author painfully redefines his relationship with his parents and copes with their aging. But best of all, his stories of their unconditional love despite his abundant youthful mischief is very satisfying This isn't Marley, the sequel. It's about life before Marley, life in the 1960s and 1970s and how that shaped life in all the decades that have followed.
Not having been raised in a Catholic household I found some of the anecdotes hard to believe. But then what did I know? Many of the events of the 60’s and 70’s left me as puzzled as my parents. Coming from a more liberal Protestant tradition some of the social/cultural changes of that era seemed more natural and necessary. Grogans book though reminded that in the end the tie that binds the best is that of family….