The Long Goodbye: A memoir

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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 prepared her for the intensity of her sorrow. In the first anguished days, she began to create a record of her interior life ...

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The Long Goodbye: A Memoir

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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

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"Nothing about the past losses I have experienced prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me in the least. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable." Just days after her mother succumbed to cancer at the age of fifty-five, novelist-poet Meghan O'Rourke began searching with her pen for solace. Her record of the process of mourning, remembrance, and recovery form the soul of this "long goodbye" memoir. Unforgettable; poignant. Editor's recommendation.

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 Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/14/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.36 (w) x 5.74 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Meghan O’Rourke is the author of the poetry collections Once and Halflife. She is a cultural critic for Slate, and her essays and poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2011

    Heartbreaking and uplifting book about the loss of a mother

    "The Long Goodbye" is a remarkable memoir, a fascinating meditation on grief and a loving tribute to the author's mother. I was moved to tears many times while reading this book. O'Rourke, a talented poet and essayist, takes us through her mother's illness and death, and the ongoing grief that follows. Throughout, she is insightful and thorough, describing her own experiences unsparingly while also exploring the literature of grief, from psychological studies to poetry. I would recommend this book for anyone who is experiencing grief or illness in the family, and for anyone who likes a great book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

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    Amazing

    I often wondered if anyone else has suffered as I have over the loss of my parents. Now I finally know I am not alone and I'm not crazy. I just miss them so very much! (and I am a grandmother - you never get over losing your parents). This book is written from the heart. It's true, you can NEVER prepare for the passing of a Mom. You think you can, but until that final moment, you can never know until you experience it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

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    Dealing With Loss Of A Loved One In A Real Way!

    I'd just lain down in bed when the phone rang. It was my mother.

    "Meg?" her voice rose. "You're home? There's something I want to tell you," she said with a deliberateness that alarmed me. "And I wanted you to hear it from me." She hesitated. "I haven't been feeling well and I went to the doctor for some tests, and she found a tumor."

    The next week she called as I was walking back from lunch to my office on Fifty-seventh Street. As the afternoon crowd bustled industriously around me, she said bluntly, "The doctor got the results. The tumor is cancerous. I'm going to need to have surgery and then maybe radiation and chemotherapy, and we need to do it soon. But they think they can treat it," she continued.

    This is my story of how Meghan O'Rourke dealt with her mother's diagnosis of colon cancer and the grief resulting from her losing her battle to fight it. This is her memoir that deals with how she went through the process of healing and shares those thoughts and memories with us in her book, The Long Goodbye.

    So much of dealing with a disease is waiting. Waiting for appointments, for tests, for "procedures." And waiting, more broadly, for it - for the thing itself, for the other shoe to drop. Except in the waiting you keep forgetting that "it" will really happen - it's more like a threat, an anxiety: Will my love love me forever? (pg 63).

    It's Meghan's honesty in sharing her most intimate thoughts that makes you feel like we are her closest friend as she pours these out to you in her own words. You feel priviledged, like you have reached a secret place where friends share this secrets and thoughts with one another to keep yourself from going crazy keeping them all bottled up inside. Meghan possesses such courage in sharing how difficult it must be to watch her mother go through this and knowing there is nothing you can do to make it better. This is what makes this book so great for us to read.

    For those that have gone through a grieving process in watching cancer take someone you love from you, you can relate to the various emotions that come across the pages in this book and create a kinship that we can all identify with.

    I received this book, The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke, compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars. While the subject matter is difficult, it makes it easy for anyone to understand the grief process and how much it changes us from the inside out. It creates a new sense of normal of us in which there is no going back to be able to change it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    Absolutely loved this book

    I have never made margin notes or highlighted sentences since I was in college and certainly never did this to one of my "pleasure" books. I couldn't help it though, I was underlining certain sentences, making my own notes in the margin since this book was so relate able me. There were so many similarities between Meghan's memoir and my own experience that I felt she was writing the book for me. This book took me through a journey I never wanted to go through again; however, this time through the journey, I was able to understand my grief and realize what I had been (and still am) going through is "normal."

    To say Meghan's memoir is heart-wrenching is an understatement. It is beautifully written and pulls you in from the very beginning. If you have experienced losing a love one, this book is a must If you haven't, but are looking for a wonderful memoir, this book is a must. I will be purchasing this book for my siblings and I think this would be an amazing gift to give someone who has lost someone close to them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Anyone who has lost their Mom and needs help in understanding and sorting through all the grief will appreciate reading this. I would have to thank the writing for sharing this personal story and thank her for understanding.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Powerful Tribute To Love

    Meghan O'Rourke's "The Long Good-bye" is a must read! A memoir capturing the experience of caring for her mother who died from cancer, the book is a humble and honest look at what the living experience after such a loss. Anyone who has lost someone close to their heart will identify with the accurate description of grief painted within these pages. Through the use of quotations and references, Meghan O'Rourke gives a view of death through the eyes of other cultures and preceding generations. It is gripping, powerful, and a tribute to love! I couldn't put it down!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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