The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir
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Finding your place in the world can be the longest trip home . . .

In his debut bestseller, Marley & Me, John Grogan showed how a dog can become an extraordinary presence in the life of one family. Now, in his highly anticipated follow-up, Grogan again works his magic, bringing us the story of what came first.

Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous boy growing up in a devout Catholic home outside Detroit in the 1960s and '70s. Despite his loving parents' best efforts, John's attempts to meet their expectations failed spectacularly. Whether it was his disastrous first confession, the use of his hobby telescope to take in the bronzed Mrs. Selahowski sunbathing next door, the purloined swigs of sacramental wine, or, as he got older, the fumbled attempts to sneak contraband past his father and score with girls beneath his mother's vigilant radar, John was figuring out that the faith and fervor that came so effortlessly to his parents somehow had eluded him.

And then one day, a strong-willed young woman named Jenny walked into his life. As their love grew, John began the painful, funny, and poignant journey into adulthood -- away from his parents' orbit and into a life of his own. It would take a fateful call and the onset of illness to lead him on the final leg of his journey -- the trip home again.

The Longest Trip Home is a book for any son or daughter who has sought to forge an identity at odds with their parents', and for every parent who has struggled to understand the values of their children. It is a book about mortality and grace, spirit and faith, and the powerful love of family. With his trademark blend of humor and pathos that made Marley & Me beloved by millions, John Grogan traces the universal journey each of us must take to find our unique place in the world.

Filled with revelation and laugh-out-loud humor, The Longest Trip Home will capture your heart -- but mostly it will make you want to reach out to those you love.



Finding your place in the world can be the longest trip home . . .

In his debut bestseller, Marley & Me, John Grogan showed how a dog can become an extraordinary presence in the life of one family. Now, in his highly anticipated follow-up, Grogan again works his magic, bringing us the story of what came first.

Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous boy growing up in a devout Catholic home outside Detroit in the 1960s and '70s. Despite his loving parents' best efforts, John's attempts to meet their expectations failed spectacularly. Whether it was his disastrous first confession, the use of his hobby telescope to take in the bronzed Mrs. Selahowski sunbathing next door, the purloined swigs of sacramental wine, or, as he got older, the fumbled attempts to sneak contraband past his father and score with girls beneath his mother's vigilant radar, John was figuring out that the faith and fervor that came so effortlessly to his parents somehow had eluded him.

And then one day, a strong-willed young woman named Jenny walked into his life. As their love grew, John began the painful, funny, and poignant journey into adulthood¡ªaway from his parents' orbit and into a life of his own. It would take a fateful call and the onset of illness to lead him on the final leg of his journey¡ªthe trip home again.

The Longest Trip Home is a book for any son or daughter who has sought to forge an identity at odds with their parents', and for every parent who has struggled to understand the values of their children. It is a book about mortality and grace, spirit and faith, and the powerful love of family. With his trademark blend of humor and pathos that made Marley & Me beloved by millions, John Grogan traces the universal journey each of us must take to find our unique place in the world.

Filled with revelation and laugh-out-loud humor, The Longest Trip Home will capture your heart¡ªbut mostly it will make you want to reach out to those you love.

Questions for John Grogan

Q:When did you decide to write about your childhood and your relationship with your parents as the subject of your next book?

A: For many years I knew I wanted to write about my childhood. I was born in 1957, so I was growing up in the middle of all the turmoil and social unrest of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was a pretty eventful time. But that¡¯s just the first section of The Longest Trip Home. It was only in the last few years that I began seeing the book as more than a growing-up memoir. My childhood was part of the story, but of equal importance was the often funny and sometimes painful struggle I made as a young adult to break free from my parents¡¯ influence and find my own place in the world. I realized pretty quickly my courtship of my future wife, Jenny, was central to this part of the story. And then, as I entered middle age and my parents their sunset years, I saw that time was running out to reconcile and reconnect with them. I ended up writing the book in three parts: Growing Up, Breaking Away, and Coming Home.

Q: How do you think readers will relate to your story?

A: Well, we all belong to families. We all have to deal with those messy, complicated, often infuriating dynamics that it seems no family is without. All of us, too, must find our way free of our parents¡¯ orbit and to our own place in the world. And we all must come to terms at some point with our parents¡¯ mortality--and our own. After I wrote Marley & Me and was going around the country talking about it, countless readers came up to me and said nearly the identical thing: ¡°It was as if you were writing about my life.¡± I hope readers will find the same relevance and touch points in The Longest Trip Home.

Q: Do you ever visit your old neighborhood?

A: I go back at least once or twice a year. My mother resides in a nursing home not far away, and my family still owns our childhood house in Harbor Hills. The neighborhood has changed dramatically in the thirty years since I left home. Nearly every waterfront home --lovely in their day but considered modest by today¡¯s standards--has been torn down and replaced with opulent mansions. The houses away from the water, such as the ones in which my friends Tommy, Rock, and Sack grew up, are largely unchanged, but the cars parked in the driveways, mostly European, are a far cry from the made-in-America Chevrolets and Fords that were the order of the day when I was a kid. My childhood home has changed not at all; it¡¯s almost like a museum relic. Same kitchen cupboards, same linoleum floor, same bathroom tile. I cannot visit the old homestead or walk those neighborhood streets without being flooded with memories, a lot of good ones and some bittersweet. Thomas Wolfe was right: you can never go home again. Not easily, at least.

Q: Your parents were tremendously devoted to each other, and yet they sound like they were definitely a case of opposites attracting. How were they different?

A: My father was shy, quiet, and bashful. He was serious and meticulous and a horrible dancer. My mother was just the opposite, gregarious, funny, spunky, the life of any party, and light on her feet. Mom loved to pull pranks and tell stories; Dad was incapable of teasing someone and loved to listen to her stories. She was in bed before ten o¡¯clock most nights; he seldom hit the sack before one a.m. Dad would hang a picture on the wall by measuring to the thirty-second of an inch and using a level. Mom would squint through one eye and drive a nail in wherever the spirit led her. But they both had generous and kind hearts, and they shared a deep, life-long devotion to their faith and to God. As the expression goes, the family that prays together stays together. For my parents, that certainly was the case. Their faith was the pillar that supported their marriage for nearly six decades.

Q: How did your parents influence you as a parent? What life lessons did you learn from them?

A: Growing up, I never once doubted my parents¡¯ love for me. Even though the words ¡°I love you¡± were seldom spoken in our house, especially by the men, there also was no question about that love. Their actions, their concern, their worry, their amusement at their children¡¯s antics--even some of the more egregious ones--all spoke to their strong love for each other and their children. And it was an unconditional love. Even at times when I knew I had disappointed them deeply, I never wondered about their love for me. They taught me that every child deserves the security of knowing he or she is loved unconditionally. As a parent, I¡¯m trying to follow in their footsteps that way.

Q: Your father wasn¡¯t able to witness your success. What do you think he would have thought?

A: My father died in December 2004, while Marley & Me was still in the manuscript stage. Dad was always the biggest fan of my work, even my first college internship at a community weekly paper called, of all things, The Spinal Column. He religiously clipped and saved my newspaper columns and magazine articles. I know how proud he would be of me as an author. At the same time, I am certain I could not have written The Longest Trip Home while he was still alive. As I¡¯ve said, I believe you shouldn¡¯t tell a story unless you can tell it honestly and openly. If I knew my father would be reading it, I don¡¯t think I could have done that.

Customer Reviews:

  • A Great Read
    This was really a good read especially if you've gone through some of the events Grogan describes, it brings home a lot of memories that many of us shared. My only complaint is that in Chapter 2, right at the beginning, he gets the Immaculate Conception wrong. The Immaculate Conception was Mary's birth, not Jesus'. Anyway would highly recommend it....more info
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Disappointment
    If you don't have time to read this whole review, here's the summary: If you love our Catholic faith, don't read this. You will be sorely disappointed at the story of a man who casts aside what is most important to his parents with hardly any consideration. If you want a great memoir about a young Catholic man who has come to appreciate the richness of Catholicism (and a book written with much more soul and humor) I highly recommend Matthew Lickona's Swimming with Scapulars. If I can convince just one person to pass on this book, I can feel I've accomplished something.

    I loved Marley and Me. So obviously when I saw Grogan's follow-up had been released, I was intrigued. When I looked over the bookflap and the black and white photos on the cover, I was excited about the possibility of a memoir delving into the idiosyncracies of growing up in a Catholic American home. When I read the first 2 chapters, I was enthusiastic-a very promising start, a wrestling with the question of faith. From there, it became one of the most frustrating reads of my adult life. I am cursed with an inability to put down a book I've started. This was a very agravating read, my heart just dropped reading parts of it.

    I wonder if this book is an agent's fault? I can imagine the conversation: "Marley and Me is doing great! What are you going to write about next!? We need to strike while the iron is hot!" "Oh, I don't know. Maybe I could write about growing up..." "Yes! Yes! That sounds great!" But it is not great. The beginning and end are good writing, but there is a lot of mediocre in between. Grogan desperately needed a friend to critique this melaise, but instead an editor allows sentences like "Family stories had always been the thread that stitched together the tapestry of our lives" to pass by unopposed and receive publication. Wow. That is profundity worthy of a Hallmark card. The story chronicles your typical adolescent searching for identity, but the problem, and it is a BIG problem, is that Grogan has apparently not matured in the following 30+ years and feels little to no remorse for oh, say...losing his virginity outside to an almost stranger after his dad tracks him down with a flashlight and says "Your mom is worried about you. Why don't you two come back to the house?" "Sure, Dad, we'll be there in 20 minutes." There is just so much lying, and it is all relayed with the bragging swagger of a college freshman, not a man who has kids of his own. Then he has the audacity to entitle Part 2: "Breaking Away" a pages later. I wanted to scream: YOU HAVE ALREADY BROKEN AWAY! HOW ELSE COULD YOU POSSIBLY BREAK WITH WHAT YOUR PARENTS UPHOLD!

    As the end of the book approached, I began to hope that his parents would die before the end, just to have the consolation that they would not have to read his words of disrespect for what they treasured most. Whether it is him sharing how he received the Eucharist after his father's death, even though he knew it was against church law: "I didn't care...it was something I wanted to do" or being indignant when his parents weren't ecstatic after he joyfully told them he was moving in with his girlfriend. It is just baffling that a son could lack such a basic understanding of his parents even in hindsight. Grogan's wife displays blatant intolerance of religion, at one point recoiling from his mother's innocent blessing on the forehead with holy water. If Grogan's mother were a Jewish woman inviting her daughter to break matzo at a Seder meal, we would think Jenny cruelly insensitive and rude for refusing. But here, it's fine. The most heartbreaking scene in this book is the two sons praying the Our Father with their ailing dad, forgetting the words, and then beginning to snicker and giggle as they mumble their way through the prayer. "Dad just looked at us with tired resigned eyes." ...more info
  • I Laughed and Laughed
    Simply stated this book was full of LIFE. I could relate to so many incidents and Grogans life. This is a mans book! It's funny, sassy, irreverent, and yet oh so true. Marley would be proud! ...more info
  • A very good read.
    I read through this book fairly quickly, as the author does write in a very entertaining way that is easy to relate to. Very poignant, I very much enjoyed reading about this man's life and I feel as if I know him now. Growing up in a loving, albeit strict Catholic family, John Grogan has had many a fun experience that he relates to us quite well in the book.

    His first dog Shaun was quite the character! I can most definitely see why he fell in love with dogs to begin with and wrote "Marley and Me." If you've read that book, I highly recommend you read this one next so that you can get to know John Grogan better, too. Even if you didn't read "Marley and Me", get this book and read it if you want to read a book of quality and substance. Just don't forget to grab a box of tissues for the end!...more info
  • Not at all what I expected
    My priest suggested that we read this book; I suspect he thought it was about a man's journey to God; that's definitely not what it was. It was about a man whose youth is filled with early age drinking, smoking drug use, and generally bad choices, with no apparent show of regret. A man who turned away from God and thinks that the baptismal ritual is a bunch of hocus pocus. When he couldn't recall the words to the Lord's prayer, he substituted stupid sounds in a childish way, even though he was well past childhood. A man who while his father is seriously ill chose to avoid going home to visit him. I saw a man with no qualities worth wanting to emulate; no examples that were positive in any way. This will be the last Grogan book I ever read....more info
  • Peek Into a Catholic Family
    I enjoyed reading John Grogan's memoir. It gave me insight into Catholicism through his humorous experiences as a kid growing up and also the confrontations with his parents as an adult concerning his lack of faith. It shows how religion can be divisive in relationships but how love can still triumph. I felt bad for his parents who were devout Catholics seeking to raise their children in their faith and not having any of them really embracing it as they had.

    If you like stories about families, humor and dealing with elderly parents, this has it all. If you have Catholic background you would probably identify with many of his religious experiences....more info
  • Lomgest trip home
    I purchased this book on CD because
    1) i grew up as a Catholic and
    2) my mother recently died.
    So i thought that this story would be insightful and informative because of the similarities.
    Well, the story is 90% about the author growing up being catholic and 10% dealing with a death in his family. No insight, very little emotion here.
    Another point worth bringing up, some swearing and an uncomfortable preoccupation with sex
    it basically is an avenue for the author to write his own version about growing up in a religion.
    Growing up with many points that were common for me I realize that growing up Catholic was not as skewed as the author seems to make it out to be.
    ...more info
  • Recommend for anyone Irish
    Also, for anyone from an Irish Catholic background. "The Longest Trip Home" is a gorgeous memoir of what it means to be an Irish Catholic male--and all the rebellion, craziness, and eventual return home attendant upon that. John Grogan is painstakingly honest in his quest for manhood and the pains that go along with searching for true independence, which inevitably leads back to where one can from. A great book....more info
  • Honor thy father and thy mother and thy religion??
    John Grogan really opens up and tells it all. He is a great author. While reading this book, I felt like I was John Grogan. A major part of this book is about John's parents and his Catholic upbringing. I am not a Catholic but I was raised by strict religious parents as well and this book recaps what growing up in a strict religious environment is like. Just because your parents are Catholic does not mean that you will be. John was just a typical boy growing up and he did try to obey and respect his parents but life took its turns. His parents were not especially happy with John as a young adult. I think John always felt guilt over the fact that he let his parents down but in reality, he did not. His parents were very hurt when John lived with his girlfriend and periods as such. John is a very decent human being and I think the reason he is so successful is because he is a good person. Good things happen to good people. He mentions his dog Marley briefly. John did make amends with his parents but it was a long road to get there. I think John so badly wanted a good relationship with his parents but just couldn't get it together. They are who they are and when John finally accepted that and his parents accepted who he was, they became a family again. I am not so sure that John's wife did but she always supported John and was very understanding with the way he handled his family affairs. I think John is happier as an adult than a child and I think his Dad was very proud of John by the time he died....more info
  • Real Life for Real People
    What a spectacular insight into the condition of being human, in all it's glory, growth, and heartache. This book restores dignity to living an average life without the hype, and more importantly with a good sense of humor. It's wonderful to know that in a society addicted to scandal, drama, and shock value that there are real people out there living real lives worthy of publishing. Reading this book was like coming home again. If you enjoy falling in love with real characters in all their flaws, having a good laugh, and maybe even a trip down your own memory lane; then you have found what you're looking for in this book. Be warned though. While the some of the author's antics will make you laugh out loud, you may also need some kleenex before you're through with this one. (or as in my case..........a whole LOT of kleenex) ...more info
  • Measures the Distance between Faith and Doubt

    I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the book's description. I assumed that there had to be more dog stories in this book. After all, Marley & Me was quite good.

    Based on this book, most people would agree that Mr. Grogan writes about dogs and families better than he does about his own family. I hope he will go back to dogs and families as a subject.

    For most of this book, I felt like I was reading the story of my college roommate who fell away from his family's Catholic faith and caused lots of heartbreak. I looked in vain for some view in this book that my roommate hadn't expressed . . . and didn't find any.

    Then, The Longest Trip Home returned to its roots in exploring the spiritual and emotional space between Mr. Grogan's very devout parents and his "I know what God must think" philosophy. The book hits its highs in that area.

    Strong faith in Jesus is something that's hard to understand . . . unless you have it. Isn't it interesting that both great faith and no faith can exist among parents and their children? Mysterious are His ways.

    I was very touched to read about the faith and strong piety of Mr. Grogan's parents. I wish I had met them. It was heart-warming and enjoyable to learn more about how they lived their lives.

    I was also interested to understand Mr. Grogan's perspective. Why doesn't he believe after a solid religious foundation in the home, at church, and in school?

    What could be the counter to such great faith as expressed by his parents? I don't agree with the views he expresses in the book and was surprised that he thought they were worth explaining. It seemed more like he psychologically needs to define himself in terms of not being like everyone else. As evidence of that point of view, you can see stirrings of his faith developing since his father died.

    I also hope that he will find faith. May God bless Mr. Grogan in that search....more info
  • Trip Home-Grogan
    I loved the first book. Have not finished the Longest Trip Home yet. Slow reading....more info
  • Another smash hit for Mr. Grogan
    With his first book, "Marley and Me", Mr. Grogan showed an incredible talent as an author. His style reminds me, in some ways, of Dr. James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small).

    This book is about growing up in his family - with all the trials and joys therein. The stories are at times hilarious and at others poignant. He knows how to make you feel as if you are part of the stories he is telling.

    You "watch" him grow and get through his boyhood scrapes and trials at school, do the teenage guy thing (with some quite hilarious stories), go off to college, marry and have children, and then go through the torture of his elderly parents illnesses.

    With this book, Mr. Grogan has joined my fairly short list of "must-read" authors. Kudos to him on another job well done....more info
  • Good, but not as good ...
    This was a nice story, but I was looking for more laughs based on other reviews. It definitely wasn't another Marley and Me, but rather a story of the author's life leading up to about that point. I enjoyed it....more info
  • Good, but Not "Marley and Me"!
    John Grogan's memoir, "The Longest Trip Home", is well written and full of humor. It also struck a very serious chord with me as it deals with the very normal "coming of age" concept and Grogan's relationship with his parents. The memoir begins with Grogan's childhood and takes the reader on a journey through the rest of his life up to the present day. He talks about his experiences growing up in a Catholic home with Catholic parents and what it was like to attend a Catholic school. Grogan shares with the reader his bond of friendship with fellow boys in his Michigan neighborhood while recounting some very humorous events. He also tells of his romantic "firsts" as well as forging a family lifestyle with his wife Jenny and their three children. The book certainly focuses on the contrast between his parents and himself. It shows the journey he took from following his family's beliefs and traditions to creating his own. It showcases his compassion and love for his parents despite their obvious struggle with his faith.

    For me this book takes second place to Grogan's first book, "Marley and Me". When I read "Marley and Me" I couldn't put it down. I was either laughing, crying or loving that book. With "The Longest Trip Home" there were times that I couldn't find the motivation to pick up the book. There were definitely moments where I laughed out loud and other moments where I was brought to tears. It's a story that I think many people will love and appreciate. It just wasn't better than "Marley." I will certainly remain interested in other books that Grogan writes. I think his wit, intellect, and ability to craft a story make him a brilliant author who will be enjoyed for decades to come. ...more info
  • A Long Way Home review
    I read A Long Way Home. It was a lovely Memoir. I could especially relate since I was raise in a Catholic home and also fell away for some time. Many of his stories seemed to remind me of similar experiences. I was especially touched by the death of his father which was so much like my own. I cried through the chapters. Life goes on, but it is never the same. I returned to the church and find so much peace in the relearning of faith....more info
  • A Touching Read
    Both my wife and I loved Marley and Me, so we were ecstatic to get our hands on an early copy of John Grogan's follow up - The Longest Trip Home. This book focuses on John's childhood (consumed with strong Catholic tradition), youth, and maturity culminating in the death of his parents. Like Marley & Me; it is well written, touching, accessible, entertaining, and will speak to most readers through common Americana experiences. Unlike Marley & Me, the book takes a while to develop, and you really have to force yourself to stick with it before you really start enjoying it - however, in the end it is worth the effort. Anyone you has lost a parent, especially recently, will find this book very moving. If you enjoyed Marley & Me, I can confidently recommend this book to you....more info
  • Discovering who you really are...
    Struggling to find himself amongst his family's belief systems, John Grogan brings us along on his trip down memory lane at a look back at his childhood. His childhood memories revolve around the religious aspects of his life, and the close Catholic family in which he was raised. But like many children that are raised in a very religious household, he looked to find his own way and define his own beliefs for his adult life. Most of all, it appears as though he wants the freedom to choose for himself, rather than simply following the path as it was laid out for him.

    This was an interesting look at the background of the man who wrote "Marley & Me". I agree with another reviewer in the fact that this book probably would not have been published if not for the success of his previous best seller. However, it was an interesting reflection on the way in which many people were raised in the 1950's and 1960's, and that the way we are raised really does ultimately influence who we become. Enjoy!
    ...more info
  • TOUCH AND HEARTFELT
    A TRULY TOUCHING STORY OF THE PATH OF A CHILD WHO SLOWLY TRANSFORMS INTO A MATURE ADULT. DEFINITELY WORTH A READ...more info
  • Even Better Than Marley & Me
    This book is about John Grogan growing up. The childhood stories he tells are so funny! He had experiences for sure. If you grew up Catholic like I did, you will really identify with that part of the book: being an altar boy, going to confession, the sacraments, it's all in here. His brothers and sister interaction is very good and the "stars" of the book are his parents. The end deals with them getting older and is so good. I loved this book! I got into it real fast and it was hard to put down. I read it in three days....more info