Home Recommended Reading Workshops About RSS

The Long Goodbye: A Memoir ~Meghan O’Rourke


This is a loving story of a “normal” family who experienced the loss of the Mother and Wife to colon cancer.  It is a story about their growing and parented years, it is the story about the years of sickness and the family’s responses and actions, and is introspective of that which a daughter understands about her own development, growth and the mother-daughter experience.

This book is a study in grief and it is well researched, literary, and supremely well written.

Right up front I give this book 5 Ladybugs and I hope that I inspire people to read this story and benefit from this information.

There were moments where I thought I was reading a 300 page obituary for a talented and energetic teacher.  I often thought, wow I wish I had read this before my own Mother was dying; I am happy that other people can now benefit from the research, poetry, insights, and lessons shared in this book.  It is a celebration of living a good life, having a good death, and how mourning and grief play out amidst the living and the survivors.

“One of the grubby truths about a loss is that you don’t just mourn the dead person, you mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive.”

I found myself feeling jealous several times during the reading of this book.  O’Rourke writes about familial love as a resource and strength in the face of immeasurable loss and how each family member took part in the care of the patient and the nurturing of each other.   The extended family was fairly close by and offered their support also.   I had to wonder how my experience would have been changed with even a spoonful of that “yogurt” of the author’s experience.  It was a very personal read.

“It is, of course, difficult to study ‘grief’ because a salient feature of grief is that it’s not monolithic or singular; it’s personal and variable.  That said, there seem to be certain universal aspects. And one is the ameliorating influence of watching your loved one accept his or her death. (Another is that the dominant feeling after a loss isn’t anger or denial but yearning, exactly the feeling I’d had.)”

O’Rourke has moved well beyond the studies and conclusions of Kubler-Ross’s stages and even refers to these as states, because there is not an orderly progression – rather it is” an ongoing, messy process”

“But even ‘normal grief’, Prigerson said, is hardly gentle. Its symptoms include insomnia or other sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, auditory or visual hallucinations, appetite problems, and dryness of mouth.  I had had all of these symptoms, including one banal hallucination at dinner with a friend, when I imagined I saw a waitress bring him ice cream.  In addition to the symptoms Prigerson named, I had one more: difficulty spelling. Like my mother, I had always been a good speller. … My problem was not unusual; certain forms of grief can take a toll on your cognitive functions.”

Grief is such an important part of living and living a “good” life that there are many studies being done and this book offers up so much of the new thinking and “facts” presented by the current research. It has been a question on the mind of most human’s experience.

Missing from this book, were all the details of the “paperwork” involved with the process of illness and dying.  There is little mention of the insurance, and co-pays, fees and lawyers. The author does talk about how they had to tell her Mother’s treatment history to each new Doctor and Administrator that they encountered and how exhausting that part of the experience can become.  She also mentions how sometimes her notes arrived ahead of charts and labs and these were the basis of keeping her mother cared for and proceeding with less pain and trauma.  I wanted to add, how lucky she was to have so many helpers and friends who did a conscientious job of helping her keep track, because it seemed like when I could finally get away for a shower or rest, some physician arrived and changed the routine and medications – and no one told me.

This book is an invaluable resource of how to care for one’s self through the tough sieges and loss, and it is recounted by a good teller.

Richard Ford said: “The LONG GOODBYE is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, through and unstintingly intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought.  But it’s above all a useful book, for life—the good bits and the sad ones, too.”

The book was sent to me by TLC book tours but I did not receive any compensation for reviewing this book.  If you purchase the book from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

Everyone who makes a comment on this review will be entered into a give away for a copy of this book to be mailed to you by the publisher. Only available for USA and Canada.  The random drawing will be held April 22, 2011.

If you would like to read more here you might wish to subscribe by RSS or via email – directions are at the top of the page.
If you enjoyed what you read here please feel free to share on Twitter, or Facebook or Stumbleupon or any of the portals listed under the share button.  Thank you

Related Reading:
The Gifts of Imperfection
The Love Ceiling
The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Let’s talk about this idea of grief in the comments section.  I think you would truly like this book.

I know I experienced many of these feelings and I think this was why I torn the ligament off my ribs and had to just sit still for several years to heal it – powerful impact physically and emotionally. Looking forward to what you are going to share.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to “The Long Goodbye: A Memoir ~Meghan O’Rourke”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    The saddest part of caregiving for someone who is very ill or dying is the level of unpreparedness. You and the author are right, just wrangling all the paperwork is exhausting. And having to tell the story over and over. It’s probably too much to ask of certain professionals that they read over the chart.

    Amazingly, the local doctor assigned to Pete’s dad at the emergency room in January actually took the time to read over the voluminous records amassed by all the specialists at the Mayo Clinic, where he’d been treated for years. And, this guy uncovered what those geniuses had failed to detect: improper lung function meant CO2 retention and lessening oxygen absorption. The numbers telling that story were present in testing for over a year. Yet NO ONE mentioned it, absorbed as they were in their micro-specialty.

    People are just unprepared for advocacy. And the supportive extended family dynamic the author was fortunate to have is by no means universal. More and more of us will find ourselves in these circumstances, and it’s a subject many of us would prefer not to attend. Thanks, Patricia.

    patricia Reply:

    Betsy you are welcome,
    Yes the unpreparedness of it all and the having to keep on top of the information. It should not be so exhausting.

    Just with my brother’s recent hospitalization, he didn’t know not to refuse services from the social worker at the hospital. They cut him off with nothing for when he got home – and he only got one opportunity…now he is ill and alone and has no one to help him make choices and decisions. We have had to move him into nursing care and he has to pay the bills – when one is all drugged up and recovering they do not know what they are agreeing to or not.

    I think this is a powerful book and an interesting story.
    Thank you for your good comments they truly add to the discussion

  2. Talon Says:

    Sounds like a must read for anyone who has (or is) going through the process of a life-ending illness, Patricia. I always love your reviews – they’re so in-depth and well done.
    Talon recently posted..The Waiting GameMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    This is a powerful book and an interesting memoir – very New York City style too … it is just crammed full of feelings and useful information for any experience.

    I think O’Rourke sharing her families individual feelings and responses will help readers to identify when they are on a slippery incline even if the situation is not the same – she has a way of giving good examples.

    I think the Western World is still not so good with dying and death – more in avoidance mode

  3. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. gosh what a meaningful review – and as Betsy and Talon have said .. a must read for those of us interested. I can see I’ll be doing lots of reading in due course .. for now I think I’ve done ‘my process’ as such for both my uncle, who has gone, and my mother, who has still to go, but certainly there are things I’d love to work through in my head.

    By being in these roles ourselves – we can pass on so much information as we have our thoughts, ideas and values worked through to an extent .. they’ll help others – both patients, relatives and friends.

    Excellent post – many thanks .. cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted..F is for Forest – that’s what F is for My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    I thought this book was very helpful to me nearly 4 years later after my mother’s death – my cognitive abilities were definitely compromised after 3 full years of 24/7 care.

    This book will help others. Although, I am finding here in the states, even with all my brother’s veterans benefits, police benefits, and firefighter benefits, the rules have changed significantly in 3 years – I have found it better to let the unions and veteran’s administration help him with his care…and to stay on the outside or he loses all his benefits. He would be on the streets with out all these benefits, and we are constantly aware that even these will go away very quickly – there are no guarantees right now – and he has Medicare! It is extremely scary times.

  4. Lisa Munley Says:

    What a thorough review. I’m so happy you can so highly recommend The Long Goodbye to your readers. Thank you so much for being on the tour!

    patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your good words Lisa and for dropping by – this book was a great read and I was very happy you suggested it – Thank YOU

  5. Galen Pearl Says:

    This sounds like an excellent gift to give someone going through this. It also sounds like a good resource for other kinds of grief, not only when someone is dying. What an excellent review. Thank you.

    patricia Reply:

    This book is written about the death of a middle aged mother and a younger women’s coping with the loss and working at regaining her balance and self – I think for older people losing a senior parent her story is only partially truth – but her research and examples of integrating the ideas into her situation I think makes this a wonderful guide for all of us.

    This is an area where we have ignored feelings – as a society – so often then the worst of us emerges to cope.

    It is a great read – any time

  6. Tess The Bold Life Says:

    Thanks for sharing this review. I understand completely about losing the self I had when my mom was alive. I fight grieving. How’s that from a non-practicing therapist! LOL

    patricia Reply:

    This is an excellent book Tess and all her research is very helpful to the therapist side of one’s life…

    Resisting grief will come back to bite you! But I certainly know what the fight is all about – and it can get mean and ugly as it did in my family.