The Longest Way Home – Andrew McCarthy

It’s Monday! Everybody dance!

Andrew McCarthy‘s The Longest Way Home was not on my reading list for the year. However, I had finished Not Afraid of the Fall and Midnight in Siberia much faster than I expected (partially because I could not bring myself to keep reading the first) and I found myself in the Hudson News in DC’s Union Station looking for reading material for the train ride back to NYC.

Before I could rabidly leap on the latest John Grisham novel, I saw a stack of The Longest Way Home which, as you can see from the featured image, shows McCarthy himself, leaning on a car, wearing shades, in some deserty-environment.

Being the intelligent(ish) person that I am, I discerned from the cover that this was either a Nicholas Sparks’ style romance novel or a travelogue.

Obviously, it was the latter.

This was… an interesting read. I had finished Not Afraid of the Fall and Midnight in Siberia the week before, so those were fresh in my mind. Midnight is a newsy, concise language informative-style travelogue, while Not Afraid was a hot mess slash daily travel diary. Midnight generally kept the readers at a distance, involved emotions only as needed, while Not Afraid was a verbal barrage of “let me show you my copious travel photos for the next seven hours while I describe to you every meal I had while I talk about my girlfriend a whole bunch”–that friend who just doesn’t know that very few people actually care to be that involved in their life.

The Longest Way Home was a happy middle ground between the two. McCarthy wanted to share his experiences, his thoughts, and his emotions. He wanted the reader there with him and took great pains to walk the reader through how he was processing things. He shared his love of his girlfriend, fears of the future, and sorrows of the past.

But his language was looser. Less polished. More casual, less “I’m a correspondent and I’ve studied the Chicago Manual of Style within an inch of its life.”

Which made the text, admittedly, sometimes messy. And, true, it took me a little to get over that (especially having just finished Midnight in Siberia). But once I adjusted to McCarthy’s voice and style, I was completely in for the ride.

He was vulnerable. That’s something that you don’t see often. Or, at least, I don’t see often. He was ready to admit his faults and failings and address them. He didn’t seem to be hiding anything from the reader or trying to color his mistakes in such a way to make himself seem a hero or victim.

Yes, it was very memoir travelogue. It was very, “I’m traveling to find myself/find answers for myself.” And that’s okay, as irritated as it usually makes me. I mean, at least he had identified a problem he knew he needed answers for, than what I usually expect, which is a “I hate my partner/job/life/career-path, I’m going to travel around __________ until some spirit guide comes to my aid.”

So, I guess I don’t hate answer-seeking travelogues as much as I expected.

As long as they’re done with vulnerability and an acknowledgement of one’s previous errors.

Of course, my opinion doesn’t matter much, does it?

Anyhoo, quotes for you:

“My feeling isn’t so much one of nostalgia for a past I never knew, it is more of an active yearning, an anxiety that these people know something of how to live, that they possessed information that I need. I examine each object, again and again, looking for clues. I’m heartsick for people who lived a century ago.”

“Getting married would be an acknowledgement of who I am rather than clinging to what I had. On the other hand, I’m an accumulation of all my past, and if in getting married I live it behind, I don’t know what I take forward. If I let go of my past, I’m uncertain of what I have to offer. If I’m not that person, then who am I?”

“The freedom of being a stranger in a strange place, knowing no one, needing to know no one, with no obligations, elicits deep feelings of liberation, and the father from the beaten path I go, the quicker the attachment to any idea of how I should be treated is discarded–I’m grateful merely that my needs are met. Without an agenda, or company to distract me, I invariably feel a certain hopefulness that can appear contrary to my aimlessness.”

“We spent several days and nights guarding her body from grizzly bears, until a helicopter could get in to take her out. Sitting beside the girl alongside the river, I remember thinking that the worst thing in the world that could have happened just happened, and yet everything went on: the water still raced past, the sky was still full of stars, everything was the same, even as it was now entirely different for us.”