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Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Longest Trip Home

Looking for something I hadn’t read in our small town library I ran across a book by John Grogan titled The Longest Way Home.  You remember John Grogan the author of the memorable Marley and Me. Followed up by the movie of the same name starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. This book has to be good, I thought. And so it was…

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….





NCmountainwoman said...

I often read family memoirs and this looks like a good one. Thanks

Ms Sparrow said...

This sounds like a really good read.
I was raised protestant as well, and I was always surprised at the things my Catholic friends were forbidden to do like eating meat on Fridays and avoiding certain movies. At the same time, I was shocked at the wild wedding dances they attending with their parents when my church didn't even allow dancing!

Sally Wessely said...

This sounds really good. I will have to check it out.

Anvilcloud said...

Great review and recommendation. I loved "Marley and Me" and this one sounds good too. Have you read Frank McCourt's books on growing up in Ireland.

I was raised evangelical where there were many proscriptions, including the kind that Grogan faced, so it is easy for me to relate.

Montanagirl said...

Another interesting read for you! I had a hard time reading your tiny print in this post. My two eye are so different now that I've had left-eye cataract surgery, that my vision is way out of whack. I'm having my right eye done as soon as possible, then I'll be able to get new glasses.

Should Fish More said...

A good recommendation, TB. The lone bookstore here didn't have it, but they're ordering a copy for me.
I was also raised in a pre-vatican2, environment, and attended catholic grade school, altar boy, the works.
My sister, 8 years older and raised the same made me a 'project' one summer when I was 12. Today, she'd be known as an anarchist, then just a rebel. She lectured me for hours on the actions of the church through history, the forced colonization of South America, the attitude of the church towards women, etc. This all in 1960...rather ahead of her time.
It was my introduction to critical thinking, and it had it's effect.