Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Longest Trip Home

Yesterday I finished reading John Grogan's memoir, The Longest Trip Home. Grogan is also the author of Marley & Me (the movie version of which I reviewed here). He's a highly entertaining writer: funny, thought-provoking, and able to pull on the heartstrings. At the end of the book I was crying, it was so poignant.

The Longest Trip Home takes us through Grogan's life up to the present. Most of the emphasis falls upon his relationship with his parents and what it was like growing up in the suburbs of Detroit during the 1960s. Grogan is about my age, so I could identify with his illustrations of the generation gap between him and his parents and the changing mores of American culture during that volatile period. He breezes quickly through most of his adult years, concentrating instead on his formative years and the time period surrounding the death of his father a few years ago.

Grogan is frank about many themes and events in his life: his sexual awkwardness, drug use, deceptions, political and moral ideology, feelings toward his parents and siblings, and (especially) religion. In fact, religion is the leading theme of the book. Grogan's parents were extremely devout Catholics. Yet Grogan grew up dismissive of Christianity, skeptical of everything his parents believed, and hostile toward the Roman Catholic life. Slowly but surely, Grogan grew more open to the spirit (if not the letter) of his parents' faith. By the end of the book Grogan is assimilating some of his parents' religious values back into his life, sans the Catholic trappings.

While Grogan's parents may have gone over the top in how they lived out their religious faith, they did a lot of things right. They walked the talk. They set good examples. They were consistent. They were bold in challenging John to examine his heart and not ignore God. They managed to challenge their kids in the area of religion while making sure their kids knew they loved them immensely. Those are accomplishments I would hope one of my kids could write a book about someday.

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