The Longest Goodbye: A Memoir

Working the Wound: Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye
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She is a career educator, judicious but kind, and accustomed to being physically active. Mothers should take care of their daughters; it is jarring to see the natural order so violently upset. This reader certainly was. For suddenly the mother is everywhere. She is in the room: expansive, calm, the same brow and mouth. Among the great virtues of The Long Goodbye is its honesty, its steadfast refusal to turn away from the rougher truths. She is jealous when her mother lavishes attention on others; she is occasionally angry when her mother does not act like a mother.

She is a career educator, judicious but kind, and accustomed to being physically active. Mothers should take care of their daughters; it is jarring to see the natural order so violently upset. This reader certainly was. For suddenly the mother is everywhere. She is in the room: expansive, calm, the same brow and mouth.

Among the great virtues of The Long Goodbye is its honesty, its steadfast refusal to turn away from the rougher truths. She is jealous when her mother lavishes attention on others; she is occasionally angry when her mother does not act like a mother. And as I was walking I thought, 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. For the loss is transformative, in good ways and bad, a tangle of change that cannot be threaded into the usual narrative spools. It is too central for that. It's not an emergence from the cocoon, but a tree growing around an obstruction.

It got 'better' in that I could go for days without thinking too much about the fact that someone I still loved as dearly as I ever did was dead But to expect grief to heal is to imagine that it is possible to stop loving, to reconcile yourself to the fact that the lost one is somewhere else.

So 'heal' isn't the right work. I love C. Lewis's metaphor: A loss is like an amputation. If the blood doesn't stop gushing soon after the operation, then you will die. To survive means, by definition, that the blood has stopped. But the amputation is still there. But I kept finding that it hurt less to remember things a second time. I think this is why people always say that it gets better after a yeareven though after a year you're not 'done' with mourning, you hae cycled through the seasons, through holidays, family rituals, living through them for the first time without the person who's gone.

But she was, and she is now, in the minds of those who remember her: her smile, her voice, her little intonations, her smell--all in us. Apr 11, Seaside Book Nook rated it it was amazing.

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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 t 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.

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. 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.

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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. Oct 01, David Rohlfing rated it it was ok. Sad to say expected better from a poet. In the first third of the book, I couldn't get past the fact that I really didn't like O'Rourke as a character in the story of her mother's illness and death.

She seemed so petty and self-centered. The most thoughtful passages in the book were in the middle sections where O'Rourke was artfully weaving together many other writers' ideas about death, mourning, and grief with her own story. When the book turned more autobiographical again, I almost put it dow Sad to say expected better from a poet. When the book turned more autobiographical again, I almost put it down, but slogged to the end. In the end, O'Rourke's book is best as a collection of others' quotes. Unfortunately, O'Rourke herself isn't very quotable.

Apr 14, Nancy rated it it was amazing. First of all, you should know that Meghan O'Rourke writes like an angel. I am a fan of the memoir, and of course I have read those two iconic journals of loss and grief, C. Rather, it is a skilled surgeon's exploratory surgery on her own wounded heart. O"Rourke's eyes may be filled with tears, but her vision is crystal clear, and her craftsman's hand never wavers.

This is a brilliant book. She has a painterly way, too, of juxtaposing bright moments with dark ones in ways that heighten both the light and the darkness. I was impressed with the sheer honesty of the memoir: O'Rourke is unsparing of her own sometimes irrational behavior, recounting without shame or excuses her own ravenous efforts to continue to milk parenting from her parents, even as her mother was dying, even as her father was consumed by his own grief. If Meghan O'Rourke suffered from our culture's inability to confront grief and raw emotion, she herself has made an enormous contribution to that culture by writing this aching, naked memoir.

I suppose I should not be quoting from an ARC, but I'm afraid the temptation to offer samples of O'Rourke's lucent prose is irresistible. Here she is, speaking of a mother's symbolic significance to a daughter: "A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. Grief requires reacquainting yourself with the world again and again; each "first" causes a break that must be reset And so you always feel suspense, a queer dread - you never know what occasion will break the loss freshly open.

Whole days were intensely inflected by reliving the past, re-contextualizing it, so that when those memories resurfaced a second time, they were coated with a veneer that distances them. I knew, already, that the next time I smelled the ocean, I would not be gutted like this.

Aug 18, Scott Axsom rated it it was amazing. I came to this book somewhat accidentally, having just learned that my mother has cancer, thinking it might prepare me for the battles that are currently unfolding in her, and my, world. Thankfully, I don't expect to lose my own mother, indeed the odds in her instance are overwhelmingly in he I came to this book somewhat accidentally, having just learned that my mother has cancer, thinking it might prepare me for the battles that are currently unfolding in her, and my, world.

Thankfully, I don't expect to lose my own mother, indeed the odds in her instance are overwhelmingly in her favor, but I did suffer the loss of my brother and, then, of my father, five weeks apart, very recently. So, where I thought this book would help me understand the fight my mother is about to join, it turned out to be, instead, about the fight my whole family joined five months ago.

She cites scholarly studies and religious treatises and more, and all of these things bring some comfort to the grieving, admittedly, but where she stole my favor was in her honest depictions of her own moments getting slammed by those unexpected rushes of pain. During the shoot, she forgot part of the recipe: "I was supposed to turn the heat down from degrees.

But to what temperature? I reached for the phone.

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View all 7 comments. May 19, Diana rated it really liked it. My mother, who had cancer, sent me this memoir about a woman grieving her mother's death from cancer. It's an intense read, particularly if you've ever lost one of your dearest loved ones or walked that frightening tightrope between "I have a mother" and "I had a mother.

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As Jonathan grieves and heals, he tries to unravel what happened to Joy, a journey that will take him nearly two years. Loading comments… Trouble loading? Readers also viewed. She lives in Morningside Heights. Pass it on! But this is complete rot, of course. Customer service is our 1 priority.

You can't shut it off. You can't tone it down. You can't avoid being confronted constantly with examples of how incredibly wrong your normal little life feels without that person. And when you do, you will appreciate a book like this. I say this because one goodreads reviewer likened the book to having a stranger approach you and babble on for three hours about her mother's death -- you feel bad for the person but you mostly feel impatient and can't empathize.

I actually think most people will have a much more compassionate reaction to this book, whether or not they've experienced grief. The writing is honest and personal, but it doesn't feel self-indulgent or like it's desperate for pity. She's a normal person trying to come to terms with something she's lived her whole life assuming would happen -- her mother's death precedes her own. Knowing that it's inevitable doesn't actually make it any easier when it finally happens.

She mentions friends saying things like, "At least she was sick for a long time, so you were able to be with her and say your goodbyes, etc," and her reaction is, "As opposed to what? The time my mom died instantly of a heart attack? Which would be worse for you, the mourner? And O'Rourke's answer seems to be You only get one mom; she only dies once. That death will be the worst death of a mother you ever experience. My 6th-grade math teacher's husband died of cancer, and she told our class that witnessing his long, slow decline was undoubtedly much more difficult than grappling with instant death would have been if he'd been hit by a bus or something.

After reading O'Rourke's book I'm realizing that there is of course no objective answer to that question. The objective truth is that my teacher's husband died only once, and so it was the worst death. Meghan O'Rourke's mom died, and that was the worst. And of course the other obvious point about "expected" vs "unexpected" death is that we are all expecting death, all the time, and that doesn't make it any easier.

In the abstract we all know we're going to lose everyone. I guess maybe being unable to anticipate how that loss will feel is the only thing that keeps us going every day. But sometimes we need a book like this -- a brutal, emotional reminder of what's coming -- so we can take that extra minute to appreciate what we have. Jun 15, Morgan rated it it was amazing Shelves: special-issues , memoir , adult-nonfiction , near-and-dear.

This book has kept me afloat for the last two and a half months and I'll always be grateful that it exists and to Meghan O'Rourke for exploring the nuances of grief so honestly and thoroughly. A year ago collapses into yesterday in these moments. Mar 26, Corinne rated it it was amazing. I'm not sure if I chose this book or this book chose me, but either way, I'm glad beyond words that we found each other. In the fifteen months since my mother's passing, I've found precious few books that do justice to the navigation of the complicated -- to be entirely too euphemistic -- new world in which the newly bereaved find themselves.

Reading this made me feel less alone than I've felt in a long time -- fifteen months, to be exact -- and for that, I thank the author from the bottom of my I'm not sure if I chose this book or this book chose me, but either way, I'm glad beyond words that we found each other.

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Reading this made me feel less alone than I've felt in a long time -- fifteen months, to be exact -- and for that, I thank the author from the bottom of my heart. I also don't know if I've highlighted so much of a text since my college days, or cried so much while reading, since, well, ever, but I found solace and comfort in every word.

I would recommend this to anyone who's ever lost anyone, anywhere. It's an indispensable book on a topic that few people are brave enough to discuss. Jul 20, Karen rated it it was amazing. Thank you, Meghan O'Rourke, for writing this. Thank you for putting so many things I've been feeling into beautiful words, and for making me feel not so alone and strange about my grief. It took me a while to get through it -- I had to keep putting it down because I was crying so much -- but like this period after my own mother's death, I did keep going and did get through it.

Thank you for being a guide, because I've needed one. I may now be unmothered, but thanks to your writing, I don't feel Thank you, Meghan O'Rourke, for writing this. I may now be unmothered, but thanks to your writing, I don't feel as unmoored. It helps more than you know Or actually, you do. Oct 07, Darrin rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , non-fiction. The Long Goodbye is one of the best books I have read this year. It was moving and at times brought me to tears.

After reading Meghan O'Rourke's book of poetry, Sun in Days, I wanted to find out more about the author and wound up on her Wikipedia page and eventually on the author's own page. I don't actively seek out books about grief and mourning Meghan O'Rourke's relationship with her mother was far different from my relationship with mine. I can't help but wonder that one's grief is shaped by the prior relationship with the deceased.

I know that to a large degree, I saw my mother as a figure I was unable to say no to and who manipulated my life even into my adult years.

Working the Wound: Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye

There is too much backstory to be able to explain in depth all that I felt toward my mother in her declining years of diabetes and eventual move into an assisted living facility but suffice to say, our relationship was strained. She was prone to circular arguments, had the possible beginnings of dementia and, my sisters and I believe, had undiagnosed narcissism that made her a challenge to enjoy being around. O'Rourke's writing has a narrative voice that is immediately appealing to me despite the subject matter.

I wanted to read the book in the evening when I came home even though, at times, it left me thinking about my own mourning experience and feeling rather down. Can it be that what O'Rourke went through was a more "normal" or healthier experience than what I went through? I just remember feeling profoundly guilty about my mother's last few years and my relationship with her whereas O'Rourke's loss is more deeply felt and reflects a more profound connection between two people.

I really want to go back now and read many of the poems in O'Rourke's Sun in Days because I realize now that many of them were about her grief or tidbits from her young life with her parents. I also will actively seek to own Meghan O'Rourke's books rather than just getting them from the library. Jul 25, Emily rated it liked it. Well, this will probably be a long post, so beware. But there were so many things in this book that rang true to me. It was very hard to read, and at times I had to put it down to have a good cry.

I wanted to write down several of the things that meant something to me so that I can look back and remember. These are things that I truly feel: "To this day, I pace the floor feeling off-kilter, thinking, I need something; What is it? And I realize: My Mother. I have felt so jipped since my mother passed away. I feel like I never had the chance to have that "real" adult relationship with her. I will regret this forever. It is no wonder that he feels that the world has lost its purpose, and no longer makes sense.

View all 4 comments. Feb 28, Sara rated it it was amazing Shelves: giveaways , own , grief. I haven't lost either of my parents.

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Last spring, though, I did lose a family member I was close to. It was the first time that had happened, really--at least as a person older than 4.

I had a very hard time dealing with it, and I felt isolated and doomed. During that time, I began to worry about losing my parents, fearing their loss would absolutely crush me. It told me that yes, it will be incredibly difficult when my parents die. But I will get through it. O'Rourke's book is an expansion of the essay series. It reassures me that I wasn't alone in what I went through, and I wasn't going crazy.

It was grief. I think this would be a great thing to give to anyone who has recently lost someone close to them. She's very right in saying we have no ways to talk about grief, and because of that it can be an isolating experience. It's hard, and people don't want to hear about it. In addition to being an intensely personal look at what it's like to grieve, O'Rourke's book also illustrates the close, but sometimes complicated, relationships that mothers have with their daughters.

Especially if they're a lot alike. In many ways, O'Rourke reminds me of myself, and her mother reminds me of my mother. Except for the cursing while driving thing. That made me giggle. Because of that, the book felt very close to home. Reading it made me sad, but I am so glad I read it. I am definitely holding onto my copy, because someday I'll need it again.

I'll need to know I'm not alone. Feb 16, Kelley rated it it was amazing Shelves: grief , memoir , must-own , nonfiction. Another amazing, articulate, wrenching and profound and comforting book about grief. This gal lost her mother in much the same ways I did and as usual, I found reading about each moment of her experience a powerful comfort.

She articulated what I felt, but couldn't find words for. And reminded me of some of the sweetest moments of my mother's dying that, when I sit with them, I feel closer to her.