Review: The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan

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Where do I start with this? I guess where it started for me would make sense. I was interested in this book ever since I read Cassie’s review of it, about a month or so ago, so when I saw it at Barnes & Noble, I couldn’t resist. This book was beautiful. Beautifully written, beautifully sad.

Marina Keegan was a crazy successful writer/student/friend/English major/everything at Yale University. In 2012, she had graduated  and lined up a job at the New Yorker. The day after graduation, she was killed tragically in a car accident. The book’s introduction, done by one of Marina’s professors at Yale, notes that she had never seen so many students cry so hard that she genuinely feared they would break a rib. Marina’s essay, the title of the collection, “The Opposite of Loneliness” went viral on the Yale Daily News website shortly after her death. The essay gives voice to the way Marina, and many other students, felt upon graduating a place they had come to call home.

That’s what was so amazing about Marina Keegan’s writing. From that first essay, she puts feelings, some of which I never even knew other people had, into words. The short stories were my personal favorite part of the collection. The first, “Cold Pastoral,” probably tops the list. What would happen if the guy you were hooking up with, but kinda liked, but weren’t actually dating, died? What if his parents expected you to give a eulogy? The story, along with all the rest, felt so real, it was almost like reading someone’s journal. Another favorite was “The Ingenue,” along with “Winter Break” and…really all of them. I can’t even pick.

The nonfiction, essay section was less immediately interesting, but just as well written. From anecdotes about her car, to an interview with an exterminator called “I Kill for Money,” Keegan explored the most mundane aspects of day to day life in the least mundane way possible. My two favorites from this part of the collection were “Why We Care About Whales,” and “Even Artichokes Have Doubts.” One examining, like its title suggests, why we care so much more about whales and animals than the people living around us, the other, questioning why so many amazingly talented young graduates go into fields they aren’t passionate about.

Marina Keegan believed everyone could and should do what they loved, bring something new to the world, change it for the better. She urged readers not to view graduations as an end but as a beginning, to realize how young they were and how much time they had. The fact of Marina’s death so soon after such inspiring words makes it all the more devastating. I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that she wrote all of these things when she was MY AGE.

I want to give this book as a gift to everyone I know who is graduating in just a few days, feeling the confusion and sadness and sense of loss Marina captured so well. And as a gift to everyone in general. Marina Keegan’s collection of stories and essays is one of the best I have ever read, and definitely one I will be highly recommending.

“We’re so young. We can’t, we must not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” 

4 comments

  1. AH! Thank you for this because I have been thinking for days on one to get my two seniors that I’ve taught for a year and half and now I know. One of them is definitely getting this book. You were spot on with this review. As soon as I read “Whales” I got really upset again like I was just reading this for the second time. I’m glad we can share books. : )

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