The Long Goodbye
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The Long Goodbye

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,460 ratings  ·  292 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Riverhead Books (first published March 10th 2011)
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Sarah
This book wrecked me. I have trouble even saying that I recommend it, because its sheer brilliant intensity will tear you apart.

I am not a crier. I didn't cry at Old Yeller, I didn't cry at Romeo and Juliet, and while I didn't see Titanic, the odds are I would have been giggling at the end. And yet. And yet I was bawling over my cooking dinner by the second chapter of "The Long Goodbye." I finished it in a few hours, and there were precious few dry-eyed moments. Meghan's grief is so raw, so wri...more
Jill
At a time when our culture is open to just about everything, there is one taboo – the grief experienced upon losing a loved one. Or, as the author herself puts it, “If the condition of grief is nearly universal, its transactions are exquisitely personal.

It is one of those exquisitely personal transactions that lead me to this courageous and empathetic memoir. As I lose my own aging mother, little by little, I have entered a pre-mourning period that is often challenging for myself to navigate and...more
Melissa
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...more
Nichelle
I started reading this book about two weeks after my father died of lung cancer metastasize to bones, liver, brain.

Firstly, I will say that I bristled at some others' reviews about the worst thing being a woman losing her mother. I can tell you that losing a father is no less devastating. No less at all. My only disconnect w this book is when she talks about mothers being your entry point into life - I'm trying to come up with a similarly poignant descriptor for fathers. As a woman, your father...more
Rhonda
I probably shouldn't have read this book just yet, but it caught my eye and I was interested in how this daughter dealt with the loss of her mother to cancer. She chronicled parts of their lives together, her mother's illness, and her adjustment following her passing. Poignant.

I want to preserve many of the passages from this book, thus the following:

Favorite Quotes:

"Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your en...more
Seaside Book Nook
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...more
Nancy
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. S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed" and Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking." Meghan O'Rourke's memoir of her mother's death is equally powerful, yet it is neither Lewis's raw howl of grief nor Didion's tearless restraint. Rather, it is a skilled surgeon's exploratory surgery on her own wounded heart. O"Rourke's eyes may be...more
Emily
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." How true this really is to me.
"I am hi...more
David Rohlfing
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...more
Scott Axsom
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. I was surprised to discover that, instead of chronicling the author’s mother’s fight with cancer, it deals instead with her mother’s death, and O’Rourke’s grief and, with some assuredness, her surviving them. Thankfully, I don't expect to lose my own mother, indeed the odds in her instance are overwhelmingly in...more
Diana
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." If you haven't experienced something similar, you might find the book tedious at times, only because in every situation after her mother's death, the author is struck anew by her mother's absence; there is a lot of "My mom isn't...more
Ellen Keim
I thought this book was good, but I still only gave it three stars. I'm sure that reflects my own bias more than the quality of her writing. My theory is that grief is such a personal experience, it's almost impossible to write an account that will resonate with everyone. While I could relate to a lot of what the author wrote, I mostly felt a disconnect between her grief process and my own.

First of all, I couldn't relate to her statement that losing a mother is the worst thing that can happen t...more
Michelle
The author of this book is a poet, and it is quite evident in her prose. She has a terrific way with words. And I have to say, it’s nice to read a memoir about someone’s mother where said mother doesn’t end up looking like a total cretin by the end of it. Rarely is there a book praising a mom!

That said, I just never got "into" this book. I guess that’s the problem with a story about someone else’s grief. It’d be like a stranger coming up to you in Starbucks and saying “my mom died” and proceedin...more
Sara
ARC received through the Goodreads First Reads program.

I haven't lost either of my parents. 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. At that time, I found Meghan O'Rourke's series on Slate about losing her mother....more
Kelley
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. I love that the book ends with the single line, 'Stay the night.' So much longing, so much of my ow...more
Terri
I wavered b/t 3 and 4 stars but rounded up when I thought about all the impressive and eclectic research this young writer did in trying to come to grips with her mother's death. She is both more scholarly and poetic than I was when I did my own research after the death of my older brother. I lean more toward psychology and the spiritual; I got the strong sense this writer is an atheist.
Also - I was hoping to see in her bibliography/credits something by Polly Young-Eisendrath, a Jungian-Buddhis...more
Corinne
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...more
Lauren Proctor
The way O'Rourke sees and processes the world is (at least for her readers) an absolute gift.

I picked this book up thinking of Didion's Year of Magical Thinking and found this book quite different but equally touching. It's difficult to recommend The Long Goodbye for it's content but you'll walk away feeling like the world was meant to be worshipped.
Cathy
My mother died nine years ago this fall and there are still times that I want to call her, share our days and check in...just like we did when she was alive. I was 51 when she died. Meghan O'Rourke was in her early thirties, far too young for the shock wave to follow. Death may be an every day occurrence, but to those of us who have lost our mother, it can feel like the end of the known world, shattering our sense of place in life, and destroying appetite and sleep. This is how it was for Meghan...more
Eva Leger
I was lucky enough to notice this on the new arrival shelf in my library. Lucky is exactly how I feel after reading it.
My parents are both still alive and have lived relatively healthy lives. Yet their prospective deaths have long been very terrifying for me. I can't imagine too many people look upon their parents dying or even just the fact that their parents will die with anything less than terror but I think I've gone past the "regular" terror.
My family has long loved telling stories about ho...more
Maggie
Except for the loss of a child, I don’t believe there is any greater loss to a woman than the loss of her mother. The bonds created between women, even relationships with a host of complexities, are close and immutable. In The Long Goodbye Meghan O’Rourke gives us a beautifully written, honest, and sometimes heart wrenching view of the last months of her mother’s life and her own long and difficult grieving process.

Having lost my own mother to cancer many years ago, I recognized many of the thi...more
Jenn
If you have lost your mom as an adult to cancer you can probably relate to this book. My mom passed away 12 years ago to pancreatic cancer. She fought it for just over 2 years which is a relatively long time for the type of cancer she had. It was a rough two years for all involved. I was fortunate enough to live next door and be close to her the entire time. Many people find a book like this sad and hard to read but I find it a source of comfort as I learn that many of my feelings were also felt...more
Mary Kruft
If you have lost a parent, especially to disease & not a sudden death, you will find yourself feeling like the author put into words what you weren't able to through diagnosis, illness progression, passing, and the first year after your loss. The author was 32 when she lost her mom to cancer, I at least got to 38 before losing mine. My relationship with my mother was not as serene as the author's due to my mom's mental illness, however I found myself wanting to underline so many passages. No...more
Jovanna
I don't know how to begin to write what this memoir meant to me. It was so highly personally relevant for me too, since I lost my Dad of cancer at 16, a much younger age than Meghan...

As often said in the book, grief is probably the most universal phenomenon yet highly subjective for each individual. In this book, Meghan takes us through the painful and highly transformative experience of her mother's disease and death, and also the most important part of the grieving process: the aftermath of d...more
Lara
So, I was sitting in Time Out For Women on Friday night listening to Amanda Dickson talk about friendship. For a moment, she was talking about her late mother and how much she missed her and then she said something about meeting people and being able to tell that they were members of The Club. The Club of those who have lost their mothers. The Club of those who understand what it is like to lose a mother.

I kind of gasped when she said that. Partly because I have never once contemplated what it m...more
Allison
Jul 25, 2012 Allison marked it as read-nonfiction
This book. Wow. It is evocative, brave, raw, and just all around honestly written. It's everything a memoir should be. I found out several months ago that my grandmother has stage IV metastasized cancer, and I see myself relating to much of Meghan O'Rourke's experience of losing her mother.

I appreciate how thoroughly she researched grief and death, and that she included quotes from others throughout the sharing of her own experience. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is or has experien...more
Lori
This review is difficult for me to write because I doubt I can express how much this memoir meant to me. I adored the book but it was hard and cathartic and terrifying and...almost unbearably heart-enlarging for me. I can only imagine how she feels having written it. A beautiful, poetically written memoir about mothers and daughters, death and life, growing up and facing mortality. A brutally honest, almost painful at times, self-examination of what it can mean to help your mother during a long...more
Denise
I read O'Rourke's book after having heard a few radio interviews with her when it first came out-- and after having read a piece she did for the New Yorker (which could have been an excerpt or an essay based on her subject; I don't remember). The book is a memoir of her grieving process after the death of her mother,from cancer. So, obviously I wasn't looking for a lighthearted read! But I was a bit disappointed. She has some flashes of really gorgeous, evocative writing, and certainly being fre...more
Julie
Ms. O'Rourke's experience losing her mother was very similar to my own. I was 32, my mother was 57, it was Christmas time, My mother also had cancer, I'm an atheist, my mother was cremated and we scattered her ashes, etc. There were many passages I could have written myself. I kept reading them aloud to my husband, who lost his own mother less than a year ago. Even though it's now been nearly 10 years since my mother died, I'm still aware of her absence every day. It was comforting just to know...more
Natalie
Mar 07, 2011 Natalie marked it as to-read
Shelves: memoir
I read Meghan O'Rourke's Story's End today.

It is a poignant 3 page memoir of coming to terms with her mother's death. It contains one of the most sincere descriptions of a daughter's understanding of her mother that I've ever read: A mother is a story with no beginning. That is what defines her.. What a wonderful turn of phrase to use to describe the ineffable way that knowing our mother's beginnings (her time before us) slips a way as soon as we think we might be pinning it down!

I will be loo...more
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Meghan O’Rourke is the author The Long Goodbye: A Memoir (Riverhead Books, 2011), and the poetry collections Once (W. W. Norton, 2011) and Halflife (W. W. Norton, 2007). A former literary editor of Slate and poetry editor of The Paris Review, she has published essays and poems in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, and other venues. She is the recipient of the 2008...more
More about Meghan O'Rourke...
Halflife: Poems Once: Poems During the Reign of the Queen of Persia Kenyon Review Summer 2010  Happy Campers: A Slate Anthology of Tales From Summer Camp

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“Sometimes you don't even know what you want until you find out you can't have it.” 75 likes
“Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.” 18 likes
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