Must-Read Book: The Long Hall

tlhkindlecoverThey were like any other young married couple in love and expecting their first baby, anticipating the labor and delivery with typical anxiety but thrilled to be on the cusp of parenthood. Yet life has a way of striking down even the best-laid plans straight out of the blue, turning something that should have been a celebration into a devastating tragedy beyond measure.

Charles Gulotta’s haunting memoir, The Long Hall, is an intimate and painfully raw journey beginning with the sudden turn of events the day his wife went into labor and the years of grueling recovery they both faced long after. His story is told with incredible insight and honest emotion. At its heart are the central concepts of love and family, and how we must all find the strength deep inside to carry on even in the face of immense loss and grief.

Charles’ story will stay with me the rest of my days. It’s a compelling read filled with beautiful writing.  I read this book in two days as I couldn’t put it down. It’s a rare book that manages to simultaneously break my heart and renew my spirit.  I found myself alternately laughing out loud or weeping with grief.

The following is an excerpt describing the moment he and his wife, Jill, discovered she was pregnant with their first baby:

We found out in November of 1984. Jill had missed her period and was feeling strange, and already suspected what was going on. We bought a home pregnancy test, took it out of the package, and clutched it as if we were holding the future in our hands. Here was the thing that would give us the most significant piece of information we would ever receive, and I remember thinking that it didn’t look important enough. In fact, it looked a lot like those kits we had when I was a kid, the ones that told us if there was enough chlorine in the pool. Yet, it represented the link between not knowing and then knowing that we were going to have a baby.

It was just a plastic tube and a small bottle of liquid. Jill filled the tube with urine, and added a few drops to the bottle. We were supposed to check back in an hour. If a doughnut appeared in the urine, that meant she was pregnant. Seeing the words doughnut and pregnant in the same sentence seemed a little weird, but that’s what it said.

We were scared out of our minds and so we joked stupidly about the doughnut thing. If it was a boy, should we name him Duncan? With Jewish parents, does a bagel appear instead of a doughnut? When we finished the stupid joking, we still had fifty-eight minutes to wait. We decided the time would pass more quickly if we took a nap. Lying on the bed, I stared at the bottom of the windowsill for fifty-seven minutes. I thought Jill had fallen asleep, but she had spent the whole time staring at the back of my head.

When the hour was up we raced to the bathroom, turned on the light, and picked up the tube. Something shaped like a ring was floating in the liquid. We screamed, looked at each other, looked back at the tube, and screamed again. I had to remind myself that the doughnut was not the baby, but was just the chemical reaction. We looked again to make sure, then poured the doughnut down the drain, which also felt weird.

Later that day, we drove to Jill’s parents’ home, to tell them. Bob took the news with nervous silence, then a warm smile. Barbara looked at me and yelled, “What have you done to my daughter?” It was a question that would echo in my head for years.

The following details the fateful day she went into labor and the devastating turn of events that would change their lives forever:

We called the doctors’ office and the nurse told us to get to the hospital. So this was it. Here was that car ride I’d thought so much about, the one you see on television and you think, please don’t let it happen like that. I’d practiced it over and over in my mind. We’d done a trial run the week before. We’d been to the hospital for the new parents’ tour. We should’ve been ready, and we were. Everything was under control. My driving was smooth and effortless. We could have been going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread, except it was almost midnight, and you leave your house at that hour only for life-altering events.

After parking the car, I felt bothered for just a moment by the bright yellow EMERGENCY sign. I opened Jill’s door and she climbed out. Then we walked slowly through the doors of Bridgeport Hospital.

It was 11:40. The day we would have our first baby — July 12, 1985 — was itself about to be born. We were in that moment when everything changes. The bridge from here to there was twenty feet of linoleum. We stopped at the desk and answered questions. Name, address, insurance. A thin man in pale green scrubs appeared out of nowhere, steered a wheelchair up behind Jill, snapped the footrests into position, and pushed her toward the elevator. We had no way of knowing, but Jill had just walked the last twenty feet she would ever walk. Right there. That faded, scuffed stretch of hallway. She was thirty years old. I was twenty-nine. We had been on top of the world for the past four years. But the world rolls. Sometimes you roll with it, and sometimes it rolls on top of you.

Charles Gullota’s memoir is a must-read, it will forever change the way you view love and loss, life and death.  It shines a light on the tenuous grasp we all have on our own lives, how our innate personalities and who we thought we were — our hopes, our dreams, the very essence of our being — can be snatched away, snuffed out in an instant like a flame. Yet, it’s tragedy that forces us to embrace the here and now, compelling us to fully live each day while we still have a chance. Only love has the power to heal us in the end.

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The Long Hall is 320 pages, and can be purchased for $12.95 from Amazon.com. The e-book edition is also available, for about $3.99 US, in any country where Amazon has a Kindle store.

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cg-on-2011-02-21Charles Gulotta is a freelance writer and incredibly popular WordPress blogger at Mostly Bright Ideas. His blog is a WordPress Recommended Humor Blog and was Freshly Pressed numerous times. I had the pleasure of meeting Charles and his lovely wife, Maria, a few years ago and yes, he is just as warm, witty, and insightful in person.

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39 thoughts on “Must-Read Book: The Long Hall

      1. I have the tendency to stay away from sad books or sad stories. I realize life is full of sadness it has visited my door often enough. I do want to read this book however, it sounds more like an encouragement instead of a downer. I like what you write and being a humorist I doubt you would wallow in a self pity story with no light at the end of the tunnel.

      2. Charles’ memoir has only helped me realize just how blessed I am and how lucky we all are just to be alive and able to spend time with our loved ones. I can’t think of anything more bright at the end of a long tunnel than that.

  1. You beat me to it! I’ve been waiting to publish my (OK, yet unwritten) review of this wonderful book. I guess I’ll have to wait for the furor to die down from your post.

    It is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. And, like you, it’ll stay with me for, well, the long hall…

    1. Please do, Elyse, write that post asap!

      I agree, one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. Without a doubt, this book shook me to my core. It’s helped me rethink things in my own life, what’s important and what’s not. Now when minor things get me down I think of Charles and Jill and the courage they both displayed for years. Really puts everything into perspective.

        1. Nope. 😦 Most new books are published exclusively through Kindle then eventually to Nook. Nook is kind of dead, but that’s where all my books are, so I still use it through my iPad. A Kindle book wouldn’t work on Nook, but maybe there’s an iPad version. I hope. 🙂

      1. Sorry to butt in here…but Lily can download the free Kindle app onto her iPad and then buy the Kindle version. It’s super easy and works like a charm. And it’s a great read. I too read it in two days and could not put it down.

  2. What a thoughtful, well-written review of what is sure to be a thoughtful, well-written book. Of course I’ve seen Charles around the blogosphere, but didn’t know of his difficult past. Thanks for highlighting it, Darls. (p.s. hope you’re feeling better.)

    1. Yes, be sure to read it, Peg. It will stay with you long afterward. And I am feeling much better now, thanks. Just exhausted but that’s typical for a mom, huh. Hope you’re enjoying this gorgeous fall weather

  3. Darla, thank you for all the kind words about the memoir. I appreciate your support now, just as I have for the past four years. You’ve been, for me and for many others, one of the very best parts of the blogging experience.

    1. You are so welcome, Charles. I can’t thank you enough for all YOU do in the blogging community and for me since day one when I met you online four years ago. You have always been so encouraging and supportive. I seriously would have quit blogging if it weren’t for your positive comments back in the beginning. (So I blame you for this addiction)

      Have a fantastic fall weekend with your family. I’m taking the kids to get pumpkins and then I’ll be baking an apple pie so it’s all good.

  4. Darla … Charles Gulotta’s book is a compelling read. Like you, I was riveted to this book and finished it in two days. His story is haunting. It made me realize how we can never take anything in life for granted.

    Your review is excellent. I posted a review on Amazon.com and also highly recommend this book.

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