My car broke down this past week, and my father’s wife was kind enough to help me out by selling me the car she planned on trading in for a new one. The only catch was that I’d need to take a ten-hour Greyhound ride home to Ohio. Luckily, the ARC for this book arrived at the bookstore the day before my journey and I was able to devour the entire thing as I trekked across the state of Pennsylvania.The Long Goodbye
examines the loss of O’Rourke’s mother to cancer, coupled with O’Rourke’s personal research into the world of grief studies in an attempt to better understand her mourning. At the center of the book is O’Rourke’s assertion that grief is a natural part of life from which we can learn a great deal.
I lost my own mother — suddenly and unexpectedly — when I was fourteen. It was by far the most defining moment of my life. Every facet of my identity and day-to-day existence is shaped, in some way, by my loss. Meghan O’Rourke’s mother passed away on Christmas afternoon, after a long battle with cancer. She explores the process of coming to grips with her mother’s terminal diagnosis, the brutal chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the difficulties of hospice care. After her mother succumbs to her disease, O’Rourke feels somewhat pressured to quickly move through the grieving process and get on with her life. It is the sense of confusion this pressure gives her, coupled with her sorrow, that leads O’Rourke to write her memoir.
This is not a memoir written with many years’ distance. O’Rourke’s pain is still very fresh, and that is very much evident in her prose. Her grief resonates through her every word. “Poignant” isn’t a strong enough adjective to describe the emotional intensity of this book. This is a book that every woman should read. My one disappointment is that O’Rourke didn’t further explore her new identity as a motherless daughter — what it’s like for her to experience her daily routines as a woman who no longer has a mother to guide her. It’s possible she hasn’t had the time to process this set of distinct emotions, but as someone who struggles with this concept, I still craved her insight.