Reviewed by Jennifer Leisey

When Meghan’s mother, Barbara Kelly O’Rourke, passes away from metastatic colorectal cancer on Christmas Day, Meghan thought she had prepared herself. She quickly discovers that, at least for her, losing her mother is not nearly as difficult as the aftermath of letting go and learning to live in a world without her mom.

The Long Goodbye chronicles the fifteen months following the death of Meghan’s mother, in snapshots of memories of her mother, snippets of poetry and prose about mourning, and scientific/psychoanalytic information blended into a candid and courageous memoir of life and loss. Meghan writes openly about her struggles with the socially accepted timeframe for bereavement, the unanswerable questions of existence and the afterlife, coming to terms with mortality, and the desire for her mother to simply come back.

One of the strikingly authentic attributes of The Long Goodbye is the inclusion of the good, the bad, and the really bad moments that Megan and the O’Rourke family deal with as their mother struggles with, and eventually loses her long battle with cancer. While the story focuses primarily on the narrator, The Long Goodbye’s description of grief and its affect on the family unit is as beautiful as it is bittersweet.

O’Rourke’s memoir is a tribute to the memory of her mother and a therapeutic tool for a daughter, searching for a way to grieve. And although O’Rourke begins the book by stating that she doesn’t “pretend that it is universal”, it is uncannily easy to identify with the narrator’s emotional process and experience with mourning and healing. In many passages of the story, I became immersed in my own memories of my father’s passing, especially as O’Rourke detailed the first few agonizing, numbing days of loss. Because O’Rourke’s memoir is so deeply personal, there is true, unmistakable compassion and camaraderie for other grievers in her words.

Rating: 4/5

Since graduating from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Professional Writing, Jenn works as a freelance writer, poet, and blogger at south of sheridan. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, and loves baking, crafting, and anything that requires a hot glue gun.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Riverhead Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.