The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

by Meghan O'Rourke

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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.

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

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, author of 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

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. 39 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!
srsstringham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ms. O¿Rourke states that her grief was not ¿more extreme, more unusual, more special than anyone else¿s¿ and was ¿an everyday [grief].¿ As she also writes, however, our society, by and large, has no rituals of public mourning and ¿the sadness of death is largely silent.¿It is thus important and invaluable that she has shared her story of grief, of mourning, because most of us have forgotten how we should ¿handle it¿ in ourselves and others. When we see grief in others¿ faces, we look away quickly or try to ¿cheer up¿ the person rather than acknowledge the grief as a struggle that we all share an experience that we all have in common eventually.That being said, the second half of the book, starting near the end of Part I, became really disjointed. It was possibly to give the surreal feeling of the grief of the survivor, but it was a bit hard to follow. It felt as though the book was rushed. The first part of the text was really a memoir, examining Ms. O¿Rourke¿s feelings and putting them in context of lessons learned, examining events and feelings from a distance, as a memoir is supposed to do, but the second half of the book felt more like a journal or diary. I myself have kept one, and I recognize the emotions. This information is good for the reader, so others who are grieving can see they are not alone, but it put me off, leaving me confused and disoriented and not giving me the feeling that most people who are grieving need¿the hope and realization that things do get better. It truly feels as if the author got a contract to write the book based on Part I and then couldn¿t organize the rest of her thoughts for the second half, instead just throwing together all the pieces of her journal, the spotty recollections and reflections that happen during grief.I also don¿t like that the author turns to ¿science,¿ to studies, to rationalize away part of her grief. That is, she seems to discount even the possibility of a spiritual side to grief, opting for what studies tell us happens in the body during grief, how grief ¿presents,¿ as they¿d say of medical side effects. Her grief becomes, then, less emotional, not spiritual, almost completely physical and slightly mental. It seems to me the stark hopelessness of someone committed, intellectually, even, if I may say, wholeheartedly to the impossibility of God, of life after death, as though she¿s fighting even in her grief to be a nonbeliever, like her mother was. This offers another perspective on grief, however, for atheists and agnostics, as the market is so loaded with how to find comfort and peace in loss through faith and religion, but, as with most of the second half of the book, it does not seem intentional. Rather, even this meanders along almost pointlessly.If the work were simply noted as being a journal of grief, that could be acceptable, but the point of a memoir is to apply meaning to certain seemingly random, disjointed, and unrelated memories with the benefit of hindsight to show how the person brought such memories together to form a narrative of his or her own life, to give meaning to that time in one¿s life. Thus, though these many thoughts arose in Ms. O¿Rourke¿s grief and are likely to arise in others¿ lives, the author did not combine these memories well so they will really have meaning for others, so that others can see how they, through her example, might be able to form narratives of their own grief to find themselves stronger or with a new purpose for thus having gone through this life experience.
sduff222 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Truly haunting. This book was extremely emotional, in that it actually provoked a wide range of emotions. I imagine it was quite therapeutic for the author to write this, to both memorialize her mother and process her emotions during and after her mother's death. Though this book is quite well-written, it also incredibly difficult to read. At times, it feels a bit voyeuristic, spying on a family's pain. However, it is probably the best rumination on a beloved family member's death that I could ever hope to read. As an aside, it is nice to read this book and see that the author had a genuine, loving, functional relationship with her mother (and father, I suppose, though he's not as much of the story). This really is a story of the author's grief, and not a story of trying to come to terms with a difficult childhood, or an abusive parent, or even worse, a cliche about not reconciling before death. In that sense, this memoir was almost refreshing.
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How do you call a book that deals with death and grief a beautiful book? In The Long Goodbye author Megan O'Rourke pours out her heart in vividly deep inpersonal detail of the grief about the death of her Mother from cancer. O'Rourke uses her personal experience to go deeper into the understanding of her grief and grief in general. I found this book very helpful to read just from the fact that my Mother-in-law just died from brain cancer. I was really shocked to read that O'Rourke's Mother died on Christmas day just like my Mother-in-Law.Reading this book and all the emotions, ups, downs and trying to reason with everything that was happening was very helpful in uinderstanding what my Wife went thru with the death of her Mother. I found so many similarities and situations like dealing with Doctors and Nurses during chemo and treatments. The decline of the cancer stricken loved one and their fight to live and then their acceptence of death.Yes this is a sad, very sad book but in a way it's comforting as well. You can't help but having a new appreciation for life and a new awareness of just how short life really is. As with all these books on the subject of death and dying it really becomes about living life to the fullest. One of the other reviews said that this book was therapy for O'Rourke and thinking about that it's probably true. However, if anyone can gain comfort from her expression of grief it's well woth it. Iwould positively recommend this book for anyone dealing with a loss of a lover one or having a difficult time in struggling with the grief.
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Unmothered is not a word in my dictionary, but I often find myself thinking it should be. The ¿real¿ word most like it -- it never escapes me -- is unmoored.¿Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye recalls Joan Didion¿s The Year of Magical Thinking but for a young-woman audience -- it chronicles a cancer diagnosis, decline and death (of a mother, not a husband) and the stunned grief that holds a daughter in a vortex over the next year.O¿Rourke is 32 years old here, living independently and working in New York City. But her primary emotional attachment is to her mother in Connecticut, thus her mother¿s diagnosis and death create an enormous upheaval and loss. As an homage to her mother and chronicle of her own grief, it undoubtedly felt therapeutic to write; but as a published memoir, I¿m solidly at: meh. I witnessed O¿Rourke¿s grief more than sympathized; I found her arrogant in the early pages, selfish later, and her family confounding. It¿s an easy read, gentle and journalistic, but without the language I anticipated from a published poet nor the insight of a memoirist. It¿s probably a better fit for readers around O'Rourke's age, and I do recommend the bibliography for all readers and Chapter 8 (about how Western culture observes grief, with references to literature, psychology and philosophy) for anyone browsing in a bookstore or library.
Donura1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
4 out of 5Meghan O'Rourke's memoir, The Long Goodbye, is a very sad and beautifully touching memory of her mother's battle with cancer and eventual death and Mehgan's loss. This is the fourth memoir that I have read and reviewed on death and loss of a very close loved one in the last 5 years. I guess you could say that I have been looking for answers that were not presenting themselves to me otherwise regarding loss and grieving. With each one, I have confirmation of my own feelings of loss and endless grief that have been otherwise very difficult to put into words. Early in the book, she says "When we are learning the world, we know things we cannot say how we know. When we are relearning the world in the aftermath of a loss, we feel things we had almost forgotten, old things, beneath the seat of reason." These are the kinds of things that we find impossible to share with those even very close to us. It was how I felt when I lost my son 5 years ago and I still feel that way today. I was glad to read that she felt the five stages of grief were a deceiving chart that did not necessarily flow in order and did not go through all stages for everyone and that most of us "grieve in private, at night, alone."The only part of the book that I struggled through was after the death of Meghan's mother, Barbara, was when Meghan went through the review of the text versions of loss and grief. I liked who her mother was and would have loved to continue to read the stories of her life and her relationship with her family and friends. Finally she finds when she has therapy, and continues to search through texts on dealing with grief that she is not fitting the examples of grief patterns. It is interesting how each person's journey is so different and I am glad that I continued to read to come to her acknowledgement that "I will carry this wound forever. It's not a question of getting over it or healing. No; it's a question of learning to live with this transformation." It is a great message for everyone. As a young writer experiencing grief that her contemporaries may not experience for many years to come, she gives a voice that will resonate with many across all ages.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Death is something with which baby boomers are becoming more and more familiar. Older boomers, now well into their sixties, are dealing not only with the loss of parents, but with the loss of age group peers and siblings. For most, it is the first time they have had to deal with death so often or so intimately. Consequently, books like Meghan O¿Rourke¿s The Long Goodbye, a frank of account of the author¿s reaction to the loss of her 55-year-old mother, are becoming both more common and more popular.O¿Rourke wrote The Long Goodbye because she believes that Americans have lost the ¿rituals of public mourning.¿ She says that, these days, our real grieving is done in private because our culture no longer allows for the kind of public grieving that once ¿shaped and supported¿ our loss. Each of us has to define ¿grief¿ for himself. Numbed to learn that her mother was dying of colorectal cancer, O¿Rourke reacted in a way that seemed illogical even to her. Rather than clinging to the other things she still had in her life, she ended her marriage, quit her job, and started an affair with a man who lived across the country. Her grief was on the verge of destroying her.As O¿Rourke waited for the disease to take her mother¿s life, she found it more and more difficult to deal with personal relationships, often having little patience with her father as he struggled to cope with the pending loss of his wife. Then, when it was all over, she wondered if her own life was worth continuing. Now she was divorced, the new man in her life was already gone, and, for the first time, she had to face life without her mother¿s love and support. O¿Rourke desperately wanted someone to come along and save her from herself because she was unsure how long she wanted to live in a world that, for her, had lost its purpose. The Long Goodbye chronicles Meghan O¿Rourke¿s grieving process from the moment she learned of her mother¿s imminent death through the year following that loss. O¿Rourke, herself a writer and journalist, in an attempt to find out what was happening to her, and what she might expect to happen next, naturally turned to other writers for insight into the grieving process. She offers a lengthy bibliography of books she studied, divided into the sections: ¿Critical Studies and Nonfiction,¿ ¿On the Psychology of Grief,¿ ¿Fiction and Poetry,¿ and ¿Memoir.¿ Despite all of her reading, and the advice offered by friends and family, Meghan O¿Rourke learned just how personal an experience grieving the loss of a parent really is. While she did experience some of what her reading, and her friends, led her to expect, much of what she learned from the literature did not reflect what she was feeling. The Long Goodbye is a worthy addition to the literature on the grieving process, and readers will be grateful for O¿Rourke¿s insights and frankness.Rated at: 4.0
yeldabmoers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was pulled into Meghan O¿Rourke¿s The Long Goodbye, a memoir on the loss of her mother, because I myself had recently endured the loss of my own baby daughter. You cannot compare one loss to another, but the grief that ensues is universal and relatable. Frankly, I had a hard time reading any books on grief because it made my loss all the more real.But the plunge into O¿Rourke¿s memoir was effortless. Following her voice, intelligent and real, while hopeful and optimistic, I became enveloped not only in her story, but into her poetic world, where events, emotions and yearnings are transferred into stunning prose. Though O¿Rourke is a poet, and her poetic voice gleams through every page, she is also down-to-earth and approachable. In fact, she speaks so intimately, and with such sincerity, that after reading her memoir, I felt I had met every single one of her family members and become a trusted friend. Her story begins with the death of her mother to colorectal cancer and her immediate reaction to this shocking reality. She is processing the event, flashbacking to her mother¿s healthier days and when she learns of the cancer for the first time. The narrative then climaxes to the moment when her mother is admitted to the hospital, where it is discovered that her cancer has returned after a brief remission. O¿Rourke¿s portrayal of her mother is pitch perfect and so tangible, that I could feel how her mother moved, almost predicting her expressions and reactions. Barbara O¿Rourke was a gifted woman, the headmaster of a private school, a mother of three children, a devoted wife, caretaker, lover of pets, with a passion for books, which she passed on to her children. Together with chronicling the illness of her mother in the first part of her memoir, the author also recounts her marriage and subsequent divorce. This double loss is palpable. In the second and third parts she shares her journey in processing it all, consulting books, turning to poems, anything to make sense of this loss, which she likens to an amputation¿the days get better but you always feel the loss. So true. Also compelling is her discussion of present day society¿s handling of grief, how it has become a private, lonely, silent passage unlike the rituals of the past. O¿Rourke is not religious, but she admits to an ¿intuition of God,¿ an attraction to spirituality, and concedes near the end of her book that she did feel the interconnectedness of things, that there was something out there, as Tolstoy said in his own memoir.I¿ve read memoirs on a loss of a spouse, Joan Didion¿s The Year of Magical Thinking, and the loss of a child, Ann Hood¿s Comfort, but I had yet to read of a loss of a parent. As the author says, what can be a greater bond than a mother to a child, as one comes out of another? The person who loved me most in the world was about to be dead, she says. How to cope with such a loss? As logical and empirical as O¿Rourke can be, she succumbs to the notion that perhaps the dead never really leave us. They are still around; they are with us more than ever before; we just have to adjust to this new reality.There are times that the narrative meanders, and breaks off into little vignettes of memories of her mother, or unconnected instances of time, like watching an injured hawk writhe in pain on the street one moment, and almost miraculously fly up the next. Parts are slow to start, others humming beautifully along; I feel I am in and out of the story. Sometimes O¿Rourke is angry and not particularly likeable, sometimes sympathetic and grateful. But almost uncannily, this pattern mimics grief, which is not always so clean-cut¿yes, sometimes it¿s even messy. But it¿s the truth. What more can we expect from a writer? ¿One day as the winter gave way to spring,¿ O¿Rourke writes, ¿I woke up, startled, to realize that I wanted to feel pleasure¿that I missed reveling in the world.¿
staciec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Meghan O'Rourke writes about death and grieving in a way that is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming-- often simultaneously. Allowing us a peek into her personal path of grieving, both before and after her mother's death, she shares her story that is relatable to anyone that has experienced similar deaths. Her story is approachable, and peppered with her research into death and with stories from her past. This is a beautiful story that is both easy and difficult to read.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Losing a loved one is a very private and personal thing in our society today. We share memories of the person, commemorate their life in a funeral or memorial service and then get back to the business of living. At least this is the commonly accepted course of things. Meghan O'Rourke, in her hauntingly beautiful meditation on losing her mother and the personal nature of grief, suggests that this is not at all how we fold grief into our lives.O'Rourke tells a deeply personal and at the same time universal tale. She shares the year and half after her mother's diagnoses with colorectal cancer, her death, and the subsequent year and a half as Meghan learned to live in a world without her mother. The narrative flip flops between flashbacks to a past untouched by cancer, the deep suffering time before her mother's death, and the frozen time afterwards when grief stabs and recedes. In addition to her own personal experience, O'Rourke peppers the narrative with sociological insights into the way we grieve and how we have hidden away our mourning rituals, leaving those most sunk by grief adrift without public support or acknowledgement. In examining her own feelings and the ways that they do not conform to the expected arc, she questions our assumptions about the mourner's course.The writing is gorgeous and touching. O'Rourke's love for her mother and her devastation at becoming motherless is absolutely palpable. Despite the intense and overwhelming sorrow, there is no point in the book where the reader feels manipulated. All the empathy is solidly earned. This is also not a neat and tidy tale of grieving. O'Rourke allows her innermost self to show no matter whether she comes off well or not. She is not afraid to let the push back against her mother's iminent death, the child's claim on the parent she is losing, stand starkly testament to the magnitude of the loss. This is truly a beautiful memoir, one that looks unafraid at the face of grief, recognizing its place in our hearts forever. O'Rourke has captured the last part of her mother's life and her death and done so with the strong and steady hand of her extraordinary mother's extraordinary daughter.
michigantrumpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Long Goodbye is poet and essayist Meghan O'Rourke¿s insightful, honest and sometimes humorous account of her family's grief before and after her mother's death after a nearly three year battle with cancer. In a recent interview, O¿Rourke, describing her father¿s comments upon reading the book, said he¿d found it hard to read, but felt it really captured her mother. Indeed, O¿Rourke provides us a sense of her mother's humor, love of teaching children and clear-headedness. However, the book is less a memoir of this funny and fun-loving, strong and nurturing woman. Instead, O¿Rourke focuses more on the effect her mother¿s death had on her and her family. I was drawn to her sense of loss of not only her mother, but of the person she got to be in relation to her mother. To her feelings of betrayal by society¿s woefully inadequate rituals of mourning. Sadly, she has no real spiritual faith to tether her, but she draws sustenance and support from literature and poetry. I now read Hamlet with new eyes. O'Rourke describes the "club" of understanding between those who have lost a parent. Having lost my father at an early age, I, too, am a member of this club. As such, 'The Long Goodbye' had particular resonance for me. It would be a mistake to pass on this book, however, if you are not a member of the club. Mourning and grieving is universal. O¿Rourke¿s lyrical writing captures much that will ring true to many readers.
Wabbit98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The memoir of lost is a growing field of literature. Many authors, and potential authors, are writing books about their lost. It is a way for these people to mourn and it is turning into a mourning ritual. The latest entry into this growing field of mourning therapy, as I call it; is Meghan O'Rourkes' The Long Goodbye. In this book she recounts the final days of her mother, who was dying from cancer, and her emotional reaction to her impending death, her death, and her emotional mourning feeling a year after her mothers death. This does not follow a chronological path, instead it is a weaving cross section of remembrances of the past, such as traveling to Maine for vacation, or swimming in lakes. To driving her mother for chemo, or her slow and painful descent into dementia. Until the final day arrives on Christmas day. This is hard to distinguish from other books that deal with grief, this is more like a personal therapy session for Meghan. Not helping other readers as much, but instead giving an outlet to Meghan, to expand and talk about her grief and what she was going through after her mothers death. It is a way to publicly mourn without embarrassing people, since we no longer have public mourning rituals. Though at times she does not come across in the best light. She rarely talks about what the rest of her family was feeling, except occasionally for her fathers emotions and once from her older brother. The rest of the times she guesses at what her family was feeling, one year later. Like other people who have lost loved ones she deals with the emotional affects in different ways, always hoping that her mother would come back. At times she does come across a little selfish, but that can be understandable. Since she did not have any experience with death until her mother dies. This might help other people who are grieving over loved ones, but this is therapy for the author.
SirThomasPC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a most difficult review to write. How does one take a person's tragedy and say it was not worth reading? This is my unfortunate predicament. First, I would like to say that I can empathize with Ms. O'Rourke. The loss of a loving parent is heart wrenching, I know. However, this memoir, to me, failed to show a journey. It seems that she was on a circular track that she cannot find an exit from. In the prologue Ms. O'Rourke states, "I was a child of atheists but I had an intuition of God." However, that inkling she had as a child does not develop. Later in life she cannot find solace in this most trying of times, not finding God or knowledge in all her reading; Bible included. I read this from the perspective of a Christian, and I found her lack of anchor hard to continue reading. She seems to just flounder, and here is where I have a hard time critiquing someones pain. Early enough in the story, she touched on some things that I thought would develop in her. She states "Selfishly, I wanted it to be another year" and she's right about being selfish. She admits that she knew her mother was "likely" to go first. But the real damage to Ms. O'Rourke is the concept stated on page 34: "the erasure of my mother's soul". As I read her story, I came to the conclusion that teachers and writers can fall into a trap of becoming watchers of life; never truly participants until something interferes. Then, it's monumental, like they had no idea feelings could do this, like they were caught off guard. They've been observing, reading, writing; but there's a chasm that is not crossed. I saw this in the collapse of her marriage. She couldn't enjoin her husband in this trial (not that I know his response, but he may have been equally ill equipped), She read numerous books, can quote authors at the drop of a hat, but doesn't seem to move through. Two points that I will go ahead and say are errors; knowing I will anger some. First, Ms. O'Rourke misunderstands Kubler-Ross, which is quite common. She says that grief doesn't just go through five neat little steps. It doesn't, and that's not what the study showed. People must go through all the steps, but it's not neat and they can bounce back and forth through the stages. Secondly, when it comes to the Bible, which she describes as a "fat red tome full of old wisdom". That's not what it is, though. Christians don't find solace in a collection of books. A person who is a believer, a follower of Christ has something more. It is described in that tome as a "peace beyond understanding". This is found after accepting of faith, the Bible as a support and teacher, but not as the Giver of that peace. I am sorry that I cannot recommend this book. To me, it is just a sad story with little to offer others. I do hope that Ms. O'Rourke finds what she needs; I hope she finds solace. Life is dirty, hard, and unbalanced; but there is great joy and love as well. I spent much of my youth going to our family gatherings, not holidays (although we got together then and other times), but I mean Irish wakes. I lost many relatives that I knew well, loved and was close to, but those times are fond memories for me. We Irish had great fun celebrating the life of whomever was "in the box" at the time. We were also Irish Catholic, so we knew we would see them again, but I wish she had enjoyed a good Irish send-off for her mother; she may have enjoyed that.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is possibly the most honest review I'll ever write. I read O'Rouke¿s book as part of the TLC Book Tour and if I hadn¿t had an actual deadline to read and review the book by, I¿m not sure I would have made it all the way through it. It was incredibly hard for me to finish this book, but that¿s not because it wasn¿t excellent, it¿s because it hit too close to home. I saw too much of myself in the circumstances of Meghan's mother's death. My own mom was diagnosed with cancer, then after months of chemo she was declared in remission. A few months after that she relapsed and the cancer killed her after a two-year battle. She was exactly ten years younger than Meghan's mom. I read The Long Goodbye sobbing through many of its pages. As most people who know me well could attest, I don¿t cry easily or often. When my own mom died, most of my weeping was done in the middle of the night when no one was around, so when I say I couldn't stop crying while reading this, that's no small thing.O'Rouke's memoir is so painfully honest. She writes of arguments with her mom, trying to escape the situation and pretend like it wasn't happening, fights with her siblings or Dad, she doesn't hold back on the all-encompassing pain that death causes. It's amazing how far away you can feel from you own family when experiencing a loss like this. Even though you are all losing the same person, you experience that loss in such different ways that it's hard to connect with them.Then there are the dreams. After losing your mother, this person who has literally brought you into the world, you can't stop dreaming about them. Those dreams, so real that you wake and have to remember their death all over again, haven't stopped for me after 13 years. I still see her, so close to me, and then wake to have to process the loss all over again.Of course Meghan wasn't perfect while dealing with doctors and people in her own life, but none of us are. We see death closing in and we panic. We decide we can fight it if we just know enough about the disease. Then when that doesn't work we pray, then we argue, then we hope, then, finally, we understand that we can't control it and we grieve. O¿Rouke¿s memoir is intensely personal and looks at her own relationships and reactions to the death, but it also deals with broader issues. She discusses American¿s lack of traditions and rituals in grieving. We don¿t wear black for months anymore or wail with anguish or tear our clothes. Grieving has become the final taboo. You¿re supposed to act like everything is ok, when you feel the opposite. No one wants to hear about your grief, especially if it has been a couple months.I can¿t explain quite how much her memoir meant to me. It was like reading my own grief. She put words to so many of my feelings and I completely agree with both her and Iris Murdoch, who once said, ¿The bereaved cannot communicate with the unbereaved.¿ To me, this book was one bereaved woman speaking to another. ¿When we are learning the world, we know things we cannot say how we know. When we are relearning the world in the aftermath of loss, we feel things we had almost forgotten, old things, beneath the seat of reason.¿
editfish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ms. O'Rourke has successfully brought the subject of death and grieving to the forefront of consciousness where it belongs. I began reading this book purely out of interest in her take on the subject, and quickly found myself 'wearing' the book. I myself have not yet lost my mother, as she was only recently diagnosed, and has taken the first step on her own Long March through surgical procedures, chemo and radiation. This book simultaneously arrested me, horrified, terrified, and comforted me. At times I felt as though I were looking into the mirror and beholding my future self, wishing that someone would take me in their arms and tell me that things would turn out all right--isn't that what mothers do?There are books that Ought to be Avoided, and there are some books I recommend they add to their lists of Books to Read Someday. This is one book that I recommend as a Must-Read, no excuses, as-soon-as-you-can-and-pass-it-on.These are turbulent waters that we all must swim at some point in our lives, chill and dark and rough as they may be, but there is a calming assurance in seeing someone who has been there ahead of us, wet and shivering, standing on the opposite bank, holding a faintly flickering candle and crying out, "come on, I know it sucks, but you can make it too. You're not alone. Swim this way."
kaulsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Meghan O'Rourke has admitted readers into that raw place we call grief. She affords us glimpses of what it was like knowing her mother would die too young, even though her story can never be our story. Through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and back again, she is willing to share her love, her neediness, and her pain. This book should be read by everyone BEFORE they stumble onto this uneven path.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the beautifully written haunting and honest first section, which was the memoir part. She gained distance in the second half, which is good for her, I guess, but which made for less compelling reading - more like a magazine article. Too many sources, too much journalistic reporting.
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