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The Long Goodbye: A Memoir Paperback – April 3, 2012
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"Piercingly candid." --Vogue
"An intelligent, heart-laden narrative... O'Rourke has written a beautiful elegy. She celebrates her mother and movingly meditates on the knotty mystery of grief." --The Boston Globe
"[The Long Goodbye] evokes the universalities of love and pain. We feel our own grief, past and potential, as O'Rourke grapples with hers... [She] capitalizes on her background as a poet, sprinkling her prose with imagery and metaphor." --The Washington Post
"A tour de force et tristesse... [O'Rourke's] mother emerges less as a rough sketch and more as a completed portrait, a lively and memorable person." --Lorrie Moore, The New York Review of Books
"Penetrating... There is a bracing frankness to O'Rourke's reminiscences... The weightiness of O'Rourke's subject matter is leavened by her insight and wry humor. An elegant and erudite treatment of grief, O'Rourke reaches out to the beraeved and unbereaved alike." --San Francisco Chronicle
"An achingly moving memoir... Barbara Kelly O'Rourke used to bid her daughter good night with the line, 'I love you to deaht.' With this unusually intelligent and emotional book, her daughter makes clear that we can, in fact, love beyond it." --O, The Oprah Magazine
"[The Long Goodbye is] a secular ceremony, one that memorializes the mother's best aspects, her daughter's effort to be present throughout her decline, and the terrible ,common burden of being the person who continues to live." --Los Angeles Times
"With her ear for double entendres and eye for aesthetic lapses, O'Rourke is able to narrate her months of mourning with wry wit and charming perception... It shows not only how to heal but also how to help." --NPR.org
"A beautiful memoir about a daughter's love for her mother." --The Paris Review
"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."
"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
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.
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What I value about this book is how often I say, "I know what she means!" I am kind of a snob, i want quality writing AND a message that I can relate to. As a writer, the best moments for me are when I know my readers have read something and recognized their own feelings.
Meghan does this, gracefully weaving this memoir through the difficult time of beginning to understand who we are after we lose a parent.
The second portion deals with her internalized response to it: we are privy to almost every thought she has as she attempts to "move" on. Again, her family is solid and the writing is crisp and moving. It did slow down a bit, as she processes her grief through the study of grief itself, through the eyes of authors and philosophers. Some of these quotations and processes were fascinating, others became dry and repetitive. I think that makes sense, as sometimes what seems profound to us personally may mean nothing to another person. I imagine if I read this in two years, I might react differently. It's all very personal, and at times I had to catch myself from getting annoyed. This is HER memoir, and she has the guts to reveal it all, even though it's not all flattering.
One really annoying thing, petty perhaps, is that she relates very long conversations with other people (namely her father). Unless she's there writing it down as he speaks, how does she remember? It seems really awkward to read a conversation where someone is talking ten or twelve sentences at a time. People don't talk like that and if we do, we generally avoid them (however her dad is a wonderful guy). This just sort of rang a bell for me as contrived somehow. What he says is very smart and wise, so it's just the delivery that doesn't seem real.
One big takeaway though, was something he and she discussed about apple pie. She was discussing how she wished she could just call her mom on the phone, just to have that phone call, and then the conversation proceeded on to who would make the apple pie for the holidays that year. Her father told her she should make it. She balks at first, then he explains that the apple pie IS her phone call. It IS her connection with her mother, and that making it will serve as a thread between the two. I loved that. I really had to put the book down and just savor that conversation.
As Meghan writes, "You mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive." I got to be the most amazing, smart, beautiful daughter and I miss that role - it is sad knowing I am not a daughter anymore. You never get over that, but you do learn to accept it, accept the grief, the sadness, and you learn that you are not alone in your feelings and thoughts. Meghan's words help you to do this.