Melissa's Reviews > The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke
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Aug 08, 12

bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in March, 2011

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.”
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