What does it mean to mourn today, in a culture that has largely set aside rituals that acknowledge grief? After her mother died of cancer at the age of fifty-five, Meghan O’Rourke found that nothing had prepared her for the intensity of her sorrow. In the first anguished days, she began to create a record of her interior life as a mourner, trying to capture the paradox of grief-its monumental agony and microscopic intimacies-an endeavor that ultimately bloomed into a profound look at how caring for her mother during her illness changed and strengthened their bond.
O’Rourke’s story is one of a life gone off the rails, of how watching her mother’s illness-and separating from her husband-left her fundamentally altered. But it is also one of resilience, as she observes her family persevere even in the face of immeasurable loss.
With lyricism and unswerving candor, The Long Goodbye conveys the fleeting moments of joy that make up a life, and the way memory can lead us out of the jagged darkness of loss. Effortlessly blending research and reflection, the personal and the universal, it is not only an exceptional memoir, but a necessary one.
The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke takes the reader through her process of grieving for her mother, Barbara O’Rourke, who died on December 25, 2008 at the young age of 55, from colorectal cancer. To understand her grief, Meghan takes the reader back through the tumultuous, confusing, and terrifying last year or so of Barbara’s life and how the impact of Barbara’s declining health impacted the entire family. Meghan O’Rourke writes a beautiful and, at the same time, painful memoir of her mother’s life and of her own life, especially her thoughts and actions during the various stages of her grieving from when she first learned her mother had cancer. O’Rourke wants to share with readers that grief is not something to be ashamed of and hidden away and with her grief, she was not clear how to deal with things. While everyone deals with grieving differently, the passing of her mother was her first experience with a loved one passing. O’Rourke makes the reader not only think about grief and what it truly means, but also about the small moments in life that people often miss due to being busy, yet those are the moments to be mindful of, to hold onto. The Long Goodbye is an exceptional memoir, which is filled with love, compassion, fear, and the long and, at times lonely, journey one must make through grief. The author brings not only her own personal experience forward, but also succeeds in speaking to more universal feelings of grief, a characteristic that I felt makes this memoir on grieving stand out. O’Rourke includes an extensive bibliography to help readers who are grieving. For those who enjoy memoirs, know someone going through a difficult time, or simply want another viewpoint on grief, The Long Goodbye is an excellent choice.
Meghan O’Rourke began her career as one of the youngest editors in the history of The New Yorker. Since then, she has served as Culture Editor and Literary Critic for Slate as well as Poetry Editor and Advisory Editor for The Paris Review. Her essays, criticism, and poems have appeared in Slate, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Redbook, Vogue, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and Best American Poetry. O’Rourke is also the author of the acclaimed book of poems Halflife, which was a finalist for both the Patterson Poetry Prize and Britain’s Forward First Book Prize.
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I received an ARC copy of The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.