Tuesday, October 5, 2010


One of my favorite memoirs is Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs. It's also one of my favorite books about dogs, because Knapp, who knew how memoir should be written, tells us as much about dogs as about herself. The book is not self-indulgent, even though Lucille, her rescued German shepherd mix, in turn helped her come to terms with a series of devastating losses.

Pack of Two was published in 1998. In 2002, Knapp was diagnosed with lung cancer. Less than two months later, she died. She was 42 years old.

Gail Caldwell was Knapp's best friend. A memoirist and Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, she and Knapp met at a literary gathering, but they bonded several years later near a duck pond where they had brought their rambunctious dogs. Both women enjoyed rowing and swimming. Both were recovering alcoholics. Both were driven introverts. They could talk for hours.

Let's Take the Long Way Home is the story of their friendship, their dogs, their personal struggles, and - eventually - Knapp's death. It is a nostalgic book, as memoirs often are, but it is not a downer. I recommend it to other bookish, dog-loving introverts who care deeply about their friends.


Julie Ackerman Link said...

LaVonne, would this be a good gift for a friend who has recently lost a pet? In August, her one-year-old Pug was diagnosed with the fatal disease Pug Dog Encephalitis and had to be put down. She is devastated.

LaVonne Neff said...

I don't know, Julie. It's more about losing a friend, but at the end Gail's 13-year-old dog dies. Some people would be comforted by shared melancholy. You might also check "Pack of Two," which is a wonderful tribute to dogs. I'd recommend going to a bookstore and looking at the books before deciding. You'll know if they'll help, or make things harder for her.

Julie Ackerman Link said...

Thanks, LaVonne. I should probably buy the books for myself. I don't think someone else's grief would be helpful to my friend at this time.