The Longest Trip Home
Before there was a dog named Marley, there was a boy
named John . . .
John Grogan, the author of the phenomenal #1 New York
Times bestseller Marley & Me, works his magic once again, this
time turning his keen eye to the story of his own growing up in a devout
Catholic family 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, spying on his sunbathing
neighbor through a telescope, sneaking swigs of sacramental wine at mass, or
shooting fireworks at a cranky elderly neighbor's house, John discovered that
the faith and fervor that came so effortlessly to his parents somehow had eluded
And then one day a few years later,
the fledging journalist met a young woman named Jenny. 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
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. 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.
Questions for discussion
- John Grogan's parents were devout Catholics. How did their
faith impact John? How did his struggle with his parents' Catholicism
shape his way of dealing with life—and death, most notably when his father
- What kind of household were you raised in? How did your
parents' faith—or lack of it—influence your life?
- Discuss John's relationship with his parents. Could you
have been as accepting as his parents were during his adolescence? If you
are a parent, talk about your relationship with your own children. If not,
what kind of parent do you think you'd be?
- What is the role of parents in children's lives? Do you
think this role has changed from what it was in the 1960s and 1970s when
John Grogan was a boy?
- In your opinion, what were the most important lessons John
learned from his parents?
- Grogan had to separate from his parents to find his way
back to them and back home. Do you think his is a common experience?
- What role did meeting Jenny play in John's transformation?
How did John and Jenny's relationship compare to that of John's parents?
- Becoming a parent himself was a motivating element in his
journey. Can someone truly understand their parents if they remain
- It is often said that we "become" our parents as we age.
How does John resemble his parents? How have his experiences made him
- At the end of the book, when John is visiting his mother,
she tells him, "Once they leave home, that's it. They come back to visit,
but it's never the same." John wants to protest but acknowledges that she
is right. Do you agree? Why is it "never the same?"
- Doris Kearns Goodwin praises The Longest Trip Home:
"Every now and then a memoir is so well written that readers are able to
find elements of their own life story in the chronicle of the writer's
life." Do you agree? If so, what elements of your own life did you
discover while reading?
- A baby boomer born into a solidly middle class Midwestern
household, John Grogan came from a very traditional American family. How
might his story compare to others from different backgrounds? Can someone
from another background—say the child of a single mother growing up in a
large city—relate to his story? Why or why not?
- Talk about John at the various stages of his life. How are
you similar and different from your younger self?
- Did The Longest Trip Home affect the way you see
your own childhood and family?
- John Grogan writes openly and guilelessly about some very
painful and deeply personal moments in his life. He also speaks freely of
the mischievous and sometimes devious adolescent that he was. If you were
to write your own memoir, how honest could you be? Do you think you could
face and expose your weaknesses and strengths the way he did?
- Do you think writers like John Grogan see the world
differently, or more clearly, than other people?
- John meets a Catholic priest who tells him he "was a fan
of what I did for a living, of using words to reach out to a larger
community. As he put it in one e-mail, 'Just remember: Jesus's favorite
and most frequent way of teaching was telling stories. Is it any surprise
that as things have come and gone with the passage of time, storytelling
remains? It is part and parcel of what makes us human—and puts us in touch
with our humanity.' He called my writing my 'ministry' and added, 'In your
own way John, you are doing God's work.'" What do you think about this?
- In his memoir, John Grogan touches on the themes of
morality and grace, spirit and faith, and the powerful love of family. How
are these demonstrated? Give some examples of each.
- Speaking of the themes above, how does memoir differ from
fiction in conveying universal truths about the human condition? Do you
think the message is stronger or more indelible when it is transmitted
through a memoir rather than a novel?
- If you've read John Grogan's previous book, Marley
& Me, how does it compare with The Longest Trip Home? Are
the tales similar? Do you see a connection between the two?