The Long Goodbye: A memoir

The Long Goodbye: A memoir

3.7 23
by Meghan O'Rourke
     
 

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From one of America's foremost young literary voices, a transcendent portrait of the unbearable anguish of grief and the enduring power of familial love.

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

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Overview

From one of America's foremost young literary voices, a transcendent portrait of the unbearable anguish of grief and the enduring power of familial love.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this eloquent, somber memoir about the death of her mother and grieving aftermath, poet and journalist O'Rourke (Halflife) ponders the eternal human question: how do we live with the knowledge that we will one day die? O'Rourke's mother died of metastatic colorectal cancer on Christmas day 2008; the headmaster of a Westport, Conn., private school, she was only 55 years old, and left a stricken husband, two sons, and daughter O'Rourke, the eldest sibling. O'Rourke had shuttled back and forth from her life in Brooklyn and then job at Slate over the preceding year to care for her increasingly debilitated mother. The two were extremely close, and the shock of her mother's illness devastated the whole family (the author married her longtime boyfriend shortly after the Stage 4 diagnosis, then separated just as quickly). Over the last months, O'Rourke was bracing herself, "preparing" for her mother's death, by reading everything she could during the dizzying rounds of doctors' and hospital visits, until the family could take their mother home to die in a heavily medicated peace. Anxious by nature, secretive, often emotionally brittle, O'Rourke grew acutely sensitive to her mother's changing states over the last months, desperate for a sign of her mother's love to carry her through the months of bereavement. O'Rourke heals herself in this pensive, cerebral work, moving from intense anguish and nostalgia to finding solace in dreams, sex, and the comforting words of other authors. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Stunned by the strength of her reaction when her mother died at age 55, award-winning poet and Slate culture critic O'Rourke began keeping a record of her slow passage through grief, which she eventually shared with Slate readers. Her nine-part series got huge response and even sparked comparisons to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. That's a good recommendation.
Dwight Garner
The Long Goodbye is a poet's book, for sure. It's a sustained howl of pain, an unmediated wallow…Ms. O'Rourke grieves as if no one had grieved before her, and in part this illustrates her book's point. Nothing prepares you—not literature, not anything—for your own scalding emotions. She's aware of how she comes off…But there's bravery in her naked declarations. This is a poet's book too, in the urgent clarity of its observations.
—The New York Times
Gail Caldwell
…anguished, beautifully written…The Long Goodbye is an elegiac depiction of a drama as old as life, wherein the mother's first job is to raise a daughter strong enough to outlast her.
—The New York Times Book Review
Becky Krystal
…a moving memoir of losing a parent and the ensuing tailspin into grief…O'Rourke…capitalizes on her background as a poet, sprinkling her prose with imagery and metaphor to capture sensations ranging from the perfection of a summer evening in Vermont to the embrace of her mother under the flowering branches of a weeping cherry tree.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594487989
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/14/2011
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
8.36(w) x 5.74(h) x 1.06(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Joyce Carol Oates
"Meghan O'Rourke has written a beautiful memoir about her loss of a truly irreplaceable mother--yes, it is sad, it is in fact heartrending, but it is many things more: courageous, inspiring, wonderfully intelligent and informed, and an intimate portrait of an American family as well." --(Joyce Carol Oates)
Jerome Groopman
"Meghan O'Rourke is an extraordinary writer, and she offers precious gifts to readers in this powerful memoir. There is the gift of entering her family, with its vibrant characters and culture. There is the gift of her profound insights into the experience of grief, its grip and the diverse ways we struggle to reenter a world where joy is felt. But most of all, there is her gift of showing us how love prevails after even the most devastating loss."—Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, and author of The Anatomy of Hope and How Doctors Think
Katie Roiphe
In her blazingly honest, relentlessly brave memoir Meghan O'Rourke takes on the strange, impossible time after a parent's death. I couldn't recommend this elegant and fearless book more highly to anyone who has, or has had, a mother. (Katie Roiphe, author of Uncommon Arrangments)
Richard Ford
"Meghan O'Rourke, a celebrated poet and critic, writes prose as if she was born to it first. Her memoir, The Long Goodbye, is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, thorough and unstinting intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought. But it's above all a useful book, for life—the good bits and the sad ones, too."—Richard Ford
From the Publisher

"Meghan O'Rourke, a celebrated poet and critic, writes prose as if she was born to it first. Her memoir The Long Goodbye is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, thorough and unstinting intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought. But it's above all a useful book, for life-the good bits and the sad ones, too."
-Richard Ford

"Meghan O'Rourke has written a beautiful memoir about her loss of a truly irreplaceable mother-yes, it is sad, it is in fact heartrending, but it is many things more: courageous, inspiring, wonderfully intelligent and informed, and an intimate portrait of an American family as well."
-Joyce Carol Oates

"Meghan O'Rourke is an extraordinary writer, and she offers precious gifts to readers in this powerful memoir. There is the gift of entering her family, with its vibrant characters and culture. There is the gift of her profound insights into the experience of grief, its grip and the diverse ways we struggle to reenter a world where joy is felt. But most of all, there is her gift of showing us how love prevails after even the most devastating loss."
-Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, and author of The Anatomy of Hope and How Doctors Think

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