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Publisher's Summary

From one of America's foremost young literary voices, a transcendent portrait of the unbearable anguish of grief and the enduring power of familial love.

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 55, 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 grief - its monumental agony and microscopic intimacies - an endeavor that ultimately bloomed into a profound look at how caring for her mother during her illness changed and strengthened their bond.

O'Rourke's story is one of a life gone off the rails, of how watching her mother's illness - and separating from her husband - left her fundamentally altered. But it is also one of resilience, as she observes her family persevere even in the face of immeasurable loss.

With lyricism and unswerving candor, The Long Goodbye conveys the fleeting moments of joy that make up a life, and the way memory can lead us out of the jagged darkness of loss. Effortlessly blending research and reflection, the personal and the universal, it is not only an exceptional memoir, but a necessary one.

©2011 Meghan O'Rourke (P)2011 Penguin

Critic Reviews

"Meghan O'Rourke, a celebrated poet and critic, writes prose as if she was born to it first. Her memoir The Long Goodbye is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, thorough and unstinting intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought. But it's above all a useful book, for life - the good bits and the sad ones, too." (Richard Ford)
"Meghan O'Rourke has written a beautiful memoir about her loss of a truly irreplaceable mother - yes, it is sad, it is in fact heartrending, but it is many things more: courageous, inspiring, wonderfully intelligent and informed, and an intimate portrait of an American family as well." (Joyce Carol Oates)
"Meghan O'Rourke is an extraordinary writer, and she offers precious gifts to readers in this powerful memoir. There is the gift of entering her family, with its vibrant characters and culture. There is the gift of her profound insights into the experience of grief, its grip and the diverse ways we struggle to reenter a world where joy is felt. But most of all, there is her gift of showing us how love prevails after even the most devastating loss." (Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, and author of The Anatomy of Hope and How Doctors Think)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Really great. Loved it.

O'Rourke writes with meticulous detail and creates a vivid emotional presence in this book. It could easily have been longer; every paragraph seemed worthy of expansion, and the book's not so much about loss, or about remembering the past, as it is about living in each moment and savoring the gifts contained in the present.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful memoir

This was a beautifully written book about the author's journey though living with and then coming to terms with her mother's illness and subsequent death. It was not depressing to me, rather, it was eloquent and honest and gave insight into the roller coaster ride a family goes through when a loved one gets terminal cancer. Having gone through cancer with my child I could relate to so much of what she described. We thankfully had a positive outcome, but the experience changed us forever. We can choose to be changed for the better. The author uses this forum to deal with and make sense of her experience and does it in a way most of us could not articulate.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Mixes emotions with statistics

I like this book because my mom is in hospice, although my mom is elderly and the author's mom was only 55 when she died. I lost my dad when he was 54 years old, but he died suddenly.
I can relate to a lot of what the author is saying and I do like how she mixed in with it like the stages of grief and how she did or did not follow those stages. I guess I'm just trying to prepare myself for when my mom passes. I listened to this book several times, I bet about three times total and several times I felt asleep to it. But that's not because the book is boring I think it's because I felt it comforting and I have been having insomnia, so having someone read to me who is going through some of the same emotional & physical care-taking related issues I'm going through was comforting and I drifted off to sleep. So I found this book to be super helpful.

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  • tg
  • 06-24-16

For the "unmothered"

Having recently lost my mother to cancer, I came across this book in my search to cope with my grief. I'm so glad I did. Meghan O'Rourke put into words what I feel but cannot express. It felt as though I had a companion by my side who understood the depths of my grief and the journey that I am in. I highly recommend this book for all the unmothered, particularly those who have experienced a terminal illness such as cancer. It's an awful club to become part of, but this book makes the journey not quite so lonely...

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Author Narration is Sometimes NOT a Good Idea...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The book, yes -- the audiobook, no. Meghan O'Rourke's narration detracts from her own writing.

How could the performance have been better?

Definitely needed a professional reader.

Did The Long Goodbye inspire you to do anything?

It made me consider looking into getting back to work as a Voice Artist.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Why do authors insist on narrating?

Very good story. I just happened to listen to this after Wild, both about women losing their mother at a young age. As an aside, both lost their marriages which escapes me. The mother daughter relationship is so complicated and I thought this book captured this well and I wish I could have been so eloquent with my feelings. Would have been better with another narrator.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful