Book of the Week: "The Long Goodbye"

What Women Really Think
April 14 2011 2:23 PM

Book of the Week: "The Long Goodbye"


Even if you are not currently grieving a loved one, reading Meghan O'Rourke's wonderfully affecting memoir about her mother's death, The Long Goodbye , will so thoroughly envelop you in a bereaved person's headspace that you will almost feel as if you too are recovering from a great loss. Her mother, Barbara, died from cancer on Christmas Day, 2008. O'Rourke, a founding editor of DoubleX who wrote about grieving in Slate and The New Yorker , poetically illustrates the way that grief alters your world. "Other people-friends, colleagues-got used to my mother dying of cancer," O'Rourke writes. "But I did not. Each day, sunlight came like a knife to a wound that was not healed."


O'Rourke does not merely write about the way in which grief disrupted her life in the aftermath of her mother's death. She also discusses the place of grief in our culture, and the disappearance of rituals that help us process our overwhelming emotional responses. Her discussion of these various rituals, as well as the psychology of grief, help to deepen the already compelling narrative of O'Rourke's own story.

The parts I found particularly lovely were the recollections of Barbara's inimitable personality and her particular way of speaking. Barbara was a lifelong educator, and the way O'Rourke writes about her, you can sense her nurturing, firm presence: "There was a calm vibrancy to her. She was essentially impossible to knock off her balance. But she wasn't stagnant. She was always moving. She had found the equilibrium." When O'Rourke tells her mother that she has left her husband, Barbara says, "All I can say is, Hasten slowly, Meg."

The Long Goodbye is both a dazzling tribute to a remarkable person, and a thoughtful exploration of the feelings that too many of us try to tamp down.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.