Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan’s final essay for Yale Daily News, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’, went viral after her tragic death in 2012, reaching 1.4 million views and ninety eight different countries. The essay, which has touched so many lives across the world, details the tangible feeling of unity that Keegan derived from her university community, and the excitement and possibility of post-graduation life. Her collection of short stories and essays, published after her death, became a New York Times bestseller and was hailed as a prescient triumph by many reviewers.

The Opposite of Loneliness

There’s no denying the tragic circumstances of The Opposite of Loneliness and the sense of unfulfilled talent that pervades the collection. Although it’s doubtful that these stories and essays would have reached a publisher’s desk had Keegan not died young – after all, early writings don’t often tend to be masterpieces – and the fact of her death undoubtedly lends a certain poignancy to some pieces in the collection, I have to say that I completely disagree with the suggestion (propounded by some online) that her writing wasn’t anything special.

Keegan had talent. I felt consistently throughout the collection that her voice was alive and vivid; the sort of voice that might strike the older reader as boringly typical of her generation but strikes someone like myself – the same age and of the same mindset – as authentic and truthful. Throughout her writing, everything (from stories of lost loves to bemoaning accomplished people – ironic considering Keegan’s endless list of enviable experiences) feels like she’s speaking to me, like she’s speaking to all of us in the same position.

I found myself engaged in her writing, eager to read more. The lovely, evocative piece about her car; the genuinely haunting story about workers trapped in a submarine; the quiet musings of her stories that explored the intensity of human relationships. The specificity and the detail she utilizes are effective in conjuring a very real, a very human experience that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The endings, however, are sometimes too neat and constructed, lacking impact and originality: a bit too ‘expected’, almost.

My conclusion? A star undeniably propelled to popularity as a result of her early death, but a star that was undeniably deserving.


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