The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

by Meghan O'Rourke

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594485664
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 210,867
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.85(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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

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

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to mourn today, in a culture that has largely set aside the rituals that acknowledge grief? In the days after her mother died of cancer at the age of 55, Meghan O'Rourke began to create a record of her 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 losing her mother—and separating from her husband—left her fundamentally altered. But it is also one of resilience, as she watches her family persevere even in the face of immeasurable loss.



ABOUT MEGHAN O'ROURKE

Meghan O'Rourke is the author of Halflife, a collection of poetry. 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 New York.



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • The Long Goodbye is in some ways as much about memory as it is about grief. How do you think our memories shape us?
  • Have you experienced the loss of someone close to you? If so, what elements of the author's account rang true for you? If not, what aspects of the story did you connect with?
  • What does the author mean by "am I really she who has woken up again without a mother" (296)? Does being someone's child, someone's daughter, change once a mother is gone? If so, how?
  • How does the author's mother respond emotionally and psychologically to her diagnosis? What was your reaction to these scenes?
  • "If I told the story of her death, I could understand it better, make sense of it—perhaps even change it" (139). How does the act of writing help the author during her mother's death and in the time after? Have you ever written things down in order to better understand them?
  • What rituals or little things bring the author's mother and her loved ones joy in her last days? If you've witnessed or been with a loved one in their final months can you relate to this? What activities or moments come to mind?
  • The author argues that in our society mourners are largely left alone with their grief. How does this affect the author? If you have suffered a loss, were you affected by feelings of isolation? What, if anything, might make it easier for mourners to grieve?
  • Hamlet and Orpheus, writings by C.S. Lewis and Raymond Carver—how do these characters and works on loss and dying help the author make sense of her experience? What aspects of the grieving process do they unlock for her? Are there characters or stories that have helped you define loss?
  • How does the author begin to "experience" her mother after her death? Where does she experience her presence, and what encounters give her solace?
  • "We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. And I see this when I have a shock… There is a pattern hid behind the cotton wool" (Virginia Woolf, 289). How does Woolf's idea that there is, in the author's words, "an order behind our existence," give O'Rourke hope? Do you find these words comforting?
  • How does the author feel about the role of hospitals in death today? Hospice? What might we do to make dying less bureaucratic, in her view? In yours?
  • In the time leading up to her mother's death, the author reflects on memories of her childhood. How do memories bring us comfort? Can memories also be a way to honor those who have died?
  • The author writes about how her mother's illness affected each member of her family differently. Are our family roles redefined by a loss?
  • Customer Reviews

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    The Long Goodbye: A Memoir 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
    BigPoppa More than 1 year ago
    "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.
    Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
    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.
    DebsSweet More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Seaside_Book_Nook More than 1 year ago
    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.
    TxLizzy More than 1 year ago
    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.
    ChristinaWestover More than 1 year ago
    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!
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