Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke

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.

For more information about Meghan O'Rourke and the book visit her webpage and follow her on Twitter.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I'm hearing really good things about this book. Glad to know that you had a good experience with it too. I'm putting it on my TBR list and keeping it in mind as one that might work well for someone dealing with grief.

  2. My mother is my best friend and the thought of losing her one day terrifies me. I don't know that I could read this book because I think I would be sobbing through the whole thing.

  3. Great review, thanks so much for being on the tour!


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