About a year and a half ago I read Rob Lowe’s autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. I enjoyed it and wrote up a review on this site. About two months ago, I got an email from a publishing company asking if I would be interested in reading Andrew McCarthy’s new book, The Longest Way Home. Being a big fan of free stuff, I gladly accepted the offer of a complimentary copy. A part of me is hoping I can continue this trend and maybe get books by the rest of the people who populated my favorite movies in the 1980s.
Here’s what I knew about Andrew McCarthy before I read the book: He’d been in a few movies I really liked and I honestly couldn’t remember anything he’d done that I didn’t enjoy. He was part of what was called ‘The Brat Pack’ back in the day, though I also knew they didn’t actually hang around each other much and that it was largely a media-created thing. That was about all I knew.
Unlike Rob Lowe’s book, The Longest Way home is not the origin of a famous guy and his famous friends because it turns out that when Andrew McCarthy isn’t acting or directing, he’s writing travel articles for publications like National Geographic. So while the book is deeply personal, it’s also a travel journal.
When watching McCarthy in a movie, I usually instantly identify with his character. He’s tends to play these aloof caring people who don’t quite fit in. That’s easy for me to relate to. Strangely though he seems to have those qualities in his writing as well, I found identifying with him in his book much more difficult.
This isn’t the fault of the writing. It just turns out that I personally don’t have a lot in common with Andrew McCarthy. When the book begins, we find that he’s planning on getting married to his long-time girlfriend, D. He is so excited about this that he instantly plans a series of solo trips all over the world before the wedding. Some people want to run to the ends of the Earth rather than get married. Andrew McCarthy does just that.
Early on we discover that while McCarthy has a deep love for his fiancé and his children, more than anything, he wants to be alone. This is a man who would have no problem living alone in a shed on the side of a mountain for the next fifty years. During his journeys, he talks about the family he grew up in and in so many ways it seems that he was practically brought up to be a loner. There is love in his family but it is always distant.
His trips rarely involve places you’d think to go. He goes to Patagonia, the Amazon, the Osa, and Baltimore among others. Each trip involves him meeting interesting people and exploring these locations with a curiosity and sensitivity that is easy to feel when reading it. And as he travels, he continues to work through his personal demons that are keeping him from fully committing to his fiancé.
While the path he takes to becoming the person he needs to be in order to marry his fiancé is predictable, it’s the personal nature of the story that keeps it from being uninteresting. And it doesn’t hurt that most of the time, he’s writing about some of the most interesting places on earth.
It should also be noted that McCarthy writes at least as well as he acts. The talent is clear. His descriptions of his surroundings coupled with his reactions to them give the reader a real feel for the journeys he undertakes.
The Longest Way Home isn’t a famous person’s autobiography. It’s a book about a world traveler becoming someone who can be fully committed to the woman he loves. The fact that he’s also a famous actor doesn’t really enter into it beyond the fact that he likely wouldn’t be able to afford such trips without the money his first career has gained him.
If you’re looking for some sort of famous person tell-all, this isn’t it and really I think that’s a good thing. Word is that McCarthy is now working on a novel and he’ll be starring in a Hallmark Christmas movie this December. Andrew McCarthy may enjoy solitude, but I’m glad he shares his journeys with us.
– Jack Cameron