Marina Keegan died in a car accident right after she graduated from Yale, and The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of both her fiction and non-fiction writings from her high school and college years. While she was still developing as a writer, she produced some sophisticated stories that explored interesting ideas.
The title comes from the now-viral editorial from the Yale Daily News, where she worked. The gist is that they have so much time ahead of them to change their minds and start something new. A great start to the collection but not so much well-written as relatable. Several times she mentions that “we’re so young” which is like a knife in the stomach. Clearly Keegan loved her time at college, and she was able to benefit from all that Yale had to offer with a post-graduate job at The New Yorker. She really looked forward to living her life, and the fact that it was cut short was especially tragic.
Some of the fiction standouts include: “Cold Pastoral,” about a girl whose casual hook up dies and she feels conflicted about it, “Reading Aloud,” where a retired ballet dancer reads to a blind man, “Hail, Full of Grace” about a woman who adopts a daughter and returns to her hometown and “The Emerald City” told in the form of emails from a contract worker in Iraq to a girl he loves who has rejected him back home. Most of Keegan’s fiction work deals with relationships and love, but they have interesting twists and turns and characters who grow, even in a short story. She explores the more unknown life of college hookups and living on the Cape after the season. Some characters are a stretch (i.e., the Iraq contact worker) but they are so well-researched that Keegan is seamlessly able to fully realize each one.
Her non-fiction covers a wide range of topics, including how she grew up with a gluten allergy before it was mainstream, an in-depth look at an exterminator’s life, a love letter to her old car, and how a quarter of her fellow graduates will go into finance or consulting because it’s easy and pays well. These articles have more of a conversational tone, but are overall very well-written and meticulously researched. “Stability in Motion,” about her car, really hit home about the bond one has with their first car.
The genius of Keegan is that she was able to get some points across without boring or alienating the reader. It’s so sad that she isn’t able to grow into her writing, but at least there is a very excellent compilation of her work out there so everyone can see how great she was.
Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scribner. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.