John Grogan’s The Longest Trip Home

by | Apr 2, 2011 | Book review, Memoir, Musings | 0 comments

This is a review of John Grogan memoir, The Longest Trip Home, that I just posted on goodreads.com:

I listened to an audio version of the book read by the author, which is a very different experience than reading, of course. So I have no idea whether I’d be gripped by the prose on the pages of this book. But, as a listener, I was pulled in entirely. I felt almost like I became part of the Grogan clan as John shared episode after episode of his life growing up in a Catholic family so devout, their family vacations consisted primarily of driving to religious shrines!

So his relationship to the Catholic church: going to Catholic school, being an alter boy (who, with his friends, sneaks swigs of the wine, and once, while carrying a candle down the aisle, trips and burns himself while eyeing a girl he has a crush on), trying to live up to his parents’ expectations, but being a mischievous, curious, normal boy, finding it impossible—this background is important to the book, as he grows up, goes to college, begins his journalism career, falls in love and follow his own beliefs, which differ from his parents. Amazingly, once on his own, he keeps the fact that he is no longer a practicing Catholic secret from his parents until he’s in his 30s. (I mean, seriously? What kind of wimp does that?) And the book shows how his relationship with his parents continues to evolve as he becomes a husband and father, and as his parents go through the inevitable aging process.

But it’s not really what happens that matters in this book, although many of the events are highly entertaining. It’s John Grogan’s depiction of all the people who have touched his life, from his family and his boyhood friends, to his first love and to his wife. All of them are drawn with an affection so well-balanced that it’s spellbinding. I sort of fell in love with John Grogan as I listened along. He showed his flaws; he didn’t try to make himself seem better than he is. He could have been the boy next door you never noticed but turned out to be the one who noticed everything that really mattered.
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