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The Long Goodbye

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,042 ratings  ·  471 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
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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
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
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
I read a whole lot of bereavement memoirs. This has been one of the very best. O’Rourke tells her story with absolute clarity – a robust, plain-speaking style that matches her emotional transparency. The heart of the book is her mother’s death from colorectal cancer on Christmas Day 2008, but we also get a full picture of the family life that preceded it and the first couple of years of aftermath. Theories and other writings on death and bereavement are woven through effectively. The author ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Meghan O'Rourke's memoir of her mother's death and her grief following her loss is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and yet also (for me) healing in its honesty around the irrevocable and ongoing pain that death brings. Love does not end with death; grieving in some sense never ends although the pain grows less overwhelming and we are able to go on with our life.

The memoir brought back many memories of my own mother's death. Although it is many years, I still miss her. The pain is less but
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Seaside Book Nook
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
David Rohlfing
Oct 01, 2011 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 ...more
Apr 14, 2011 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. 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
Scott Axsom
Aug 18, 2014 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. 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 assurance, her surviving them. Thankfully, I don't expect to lose my own mother, indeed the odds in her instance are overwhelmingly in ...more
May 19, 2011 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." 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
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).

"The moment when I flash upon my [father]’s smile and face and realize [he] is dead, I experience the same lurch, the same confusion, the same sense of impossibility. A year ago collapses into yesterday in these moments. Periodically for the rest of my life, my [father]’s death will seem like it took
Mar 26, 2011 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 ...more
Jul 20, 2016 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 ...more
Jane Glossil
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Made all my wounds bleed again. Grief is common, yet deeply personal.
Christine Schmid
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was such a hard book to read because it hits so close to my lived truth. I lost my mother to cancer on Christmas Eve 2017 and my father in Feb of this year. I could only read this book at home because the tears came too fast, either from something she wrote ringing true or from a memory that suddenly was conjured up. I'm sure I will read it again when more time passes.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 mother died in 2013 and the moving on part for me came about 9 months down the road but I still look back at the guilt and sadness I had at the
Jul 25, 2011 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." How true this really is to me.
"I am
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, own, grief
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.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lauren Proctor
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Tracy Finegan
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful book. I re-read so many parts because she was so spot on with the grief a Mother's death brings.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Earlier this year, my dad passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. I searched for books to help me read through my feelings and nothing worked for me.. until this. I cried my way through it - the first half all at once and the second, as we approached our first Christmas without him. Though Meghan and I have very different personalities, there were times I felt like she put my own grief into words for me.

Her final realizations that you never move past grief, only learn how to
Dani Grigsby
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Precisely like the author, when I was 32 my mother was diagnosed with stage four metastatic colon cancer. Not six weeks after diagnosis my marriage also fell apart. I've just turned 33 and my mother is weeks away from completing her second round of chemo, which hasn't killed the cancer. We're staring down the double barrels of everything this author writes about grief and what comes next for us.

I wasn't certain I should read this book, it being so horribly close to my present lived experience. I
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I have some uncertainty about how to rate this book but I think that is borne out of the sense that it is wrong to rate someone's memoir of their grief. Still, it isn't a private diary that I found at the park and spirited home with me. It is a book that the author presumably sought to have published making it fair game for this sort of scrutiny and judgment. Nonetheless, I remain uncomfortable.

Ms. O'Rourke and I both experienced the profound loss of our relatively young mothers (ages 55 and 60)
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
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
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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
“Sometimes you don't even know what you want until you find out you can't have it.” 98 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.” 35 likes
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